Published November 05, 2013
A gunman who sparked panic, but caused no casualties when he opened fire inside a Paramus, N.J. mall Monday night was found dead early Tuesday morning of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli and Paramus Police Chief Kenneth Ehrenberg confirmed at a press conference that 20-year-old Richard R. Shoop's body was found at 3:20 a.m. local time in "a ... Byzantine area of new construction" within the Garden State Plaza mall. Molinelli said Shoop killed himself with the same weapon he used at the mall and that a note was found. Ehrenberg said the area where Shoop was found was not open to the public.
A law enforcement source told Fox News that police believe he was targeting one person who turned out not to have been at the mall. Instead, he fired shots into the air and waved at people, according to witnesses.
The New York Post reported that police raided the suspect's home in Teaneck early Tuesday morning and encountered his father, Charles Shoop, who dropped to the ground and told police he was not armed before shouting, "Is this because of my son Richard at the mall? I am heartbroken over this! He called me! This is my f–king kid! You have no f–king idea what I’m going through! Just imagine if this was one of your kids."
The Post also reported that the gun Shoop used was legally registered to his brother.
Jim Tedesco, the deputy coordinator of the Bergen County Office of Emergency Management, told reporters late Monday that he believed the suspect had left the mall. However, shortly after midnight Tuesday, a source told Fox News that the suspect's cell phone had been traced to the area of the Neiman Marcus store on the mall's second floor, which was cleared by the FBI and SWAT teams.
The source also said a discarded leather jacket and backpack were found on the second floor of the Lord and Taylor store and K-9 units were sent in in case the gunman was hiding there. The source also said that a bomb squad was sent in to check the backpack.
Law enforcement sources told Fox News that detectives were interviewing bystanders who were in the mall at the time of the shooting. Families were being escorted by police to a Chili's on the outskirts of the mall area to be reunited with others who had been in the mall for hours.
Authorities said the mall would remain closed Tuesday as they continued to process the scene.
As many as 200 police cars and several SWAT teams swarmed the scene shortly after gunfire was reported minutes before the mall's 9:30 p.m. closing time. The mall was put on lockdown and New Jersey State Police landed a helicopter in the parking lot.
A law enforcement source told the New York Post the gunman was “dressed in all black body armor." Other reports said the gunman was wearing a black motorcycle helmet.
The source also said there were reports the suspect was shooting out security cameras.
"He was waving at people, doing wise ass things," a worker at a mall kiosk who gave his name as Michael told the Post. "People were running and screaming. I just ran. It happened so fast."
Kimberly Recchia of Lyndhurst, N.J. an employee in the mall's bareMinerals store, told the The Record that she saw a woman screaming, then saw the man firing shots into the air. She said he did not appear to be aiming at anything in particular.
Recchia told the paper she ran to the back of the store with other employees and heard three more shots. Eventually, police arrived and yelled, "You guys still here?" Then, Recchia said, police escorted the employees to the parking lot.
One witness told the Record the man was “strutting by” and talking to himself as he fired at least five shots.
Althea Brown, 26, of Paterson said she was in Talbots, a clothing store in the mall, when she saw the man walk by.
"He looked at me and kept on walking,” she said. She said she heard three shots, then two more.
Nick Woods was working in the Lego store when a woman ran by shouting that there was a shooting.
Woods said his supervisor locked them in a back room, along with a woman, a man and a child. When they finally peeked out two hours later, he said they saw police officers standing outside and he called 911 to ask that the officers be told they were coming out.
He said the emergency operator told him she couldn't contact individual police officers and that he should walk out with his hands in the air.
"I had to go out of the store shouting at the officers with my hands up, and they turned and pointed their guns at me," Woods said. "It was one of the scariest experiences of my life."
Jessica Stigliano, 21, of Richfield, told the Associated Press that she was sitting in the mall's food court when she saw people running and yelling "shots were fired."
Stigliano said she also began running. She said at the time she was thinking, "Not many people run for their life, but that's what I'm doing right now."
Carlos Sinde, 36, of Astoria, Queens said he was at the mall to see the 9:20 p.m. showing of the movie "Gravity" when the fire alarms went off and the movie stopped. He said he walked into the mall where someone was saying "I think there was a shooting," but he didn't take them seriously. Then, security guards ran up, urging customers to leave. He said one female security guard was crying.
"Once the security guards started telling us what was going on, that's when there was hysteria," he said.
The mall is located in Bergen County, about 22 miles southwest of Manhattan.
Molinelli said that Shoop had a history of drug abuse, though it was not clear if he had a criminal record. The prosecutor said that Shoop used "hard drugs, everything ... I think MDMA was his drug of choice." Madison Barbarini, a former classmate of Shoop's in Teaneck, N.J., said he worked at a pizzeria there, The Record reports.
The prosecutor says Shoop left an ambiguous note with his family. While the prosecutor would not call it a suicide note, Molinelli says it did "express that an end is coming."
Fox News' Perry Chiaramonte and the Associated Press contributed to this report.