RALEIGH, N.C. – Police are investigating reports of gunfire that sent shoppers inside a busy North Carolina mall running in fear or hiding inside stores, with authorities saying they haven't confirmed what actually happened.
Pandemonium erupted Saturday afternoon and after several shoppers said they heard what sounded like gunfire inside Crabtree Valley Mall. But police found no gunshot victim or shell casings from spent bullets, Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown told reporters at a late-afternoon news conference.
While some people reported seeing a gun, "no one has reported that we had a gun fired, so we are looking at all possibilities," Deck-Brown said.
Video posted on social media sites shows dozens of people running toward mall exit doors as numerous screams were heard. Outside the mall, where people gathered afterward, a police officer got on the loudspeaker of a fire truck and said there was no one shot in the mall. Witnesses described chaos after reports of shots.
Eight people ranging in age from 10 to 70 were transported to hospitals for treatment of injuries suffered as they rushed to leave the mall, the police chief said. None of those injuries appeared to be life-threatening.
The shopping complex in an affluent area of Raleigh was put on lockdown while helicopters buzzed overhead and numerous law enforcement vehicles swarmed the shopping area. Footage from a news helicopter showed shoppers filing out of the mall with their hands over their heads as police took control of the scene.
Raleigh police said they initially responded at 2:30 p.m. to reports that shots had been fired.
John Riggleman and Kristin Warring said in an interview that they were heading to a video game store when they heard shots coming from the food court. They quickly ran into the store with dozens of others. Police told them they could leave the store at about 3 p.m.
Riggleman said they were inside the video game store for about a half-hour. When they finally were allowed to leave, they passed about 10 officers or SWAT team members moving the other way with guns drawn.
"They had guns up, kind of covering us as we were running out. And then there were more back toward the exit kind of telling people where to go," Riggleman said.
Another person said he saw an argument between two men in the food court that led to about four shots being fired. Antonio Richardson told The Associated Press that he saw two men who appeared to be in their early 20s arguing and that one of them began shooting.
In the late afternoon heat, scores of people gathered outside the mall, waiting for news of what happened, police permission to retrieve their cars, or to collect other belongings left behind during their rush for the doors.
Zoe Hanks, 12, was at a hairdresser inside the mall, having the hair around her shoulders lightened, when word of an emergency came. She left with chemicals still in her hair and a towel around her neck. She said she knew it was time to go when "all the people were running."