PARAMUS, N.J. — A lone gunman, dressed head-to-toe in black and wearing a black helmet, fired shots in a New Jersey mall on Monday night just before closing time, witnesses said.
None of the witness reported seeing anyone hit by the gunfire.
The incident at the Westfield Garden State Plaza mall drew hundreds of police officers from across North Jersey as reports of the gunfire spread just before 9:30 p.m. Nearly two hours later, around 11:15 p.m., Jim Tedesco, the deputy coordinator of the Bergen County Office of Emergency Management, said he believed the shooter had left the mall.
“The situation is no longer an active shooter situation,” Tedesco said. “We believe the shooter has left the mall.”
Tedesco confirmed that no injuries had been reported. He said a single shot was fired — an account that appeared to conflict with those of many eyewitnesses, who said they heard as many as five gunshots — and that a shell casing had been recovered. But the gunman appeared to have left the mall with his weapon, which Tedesco described as a long-range rifle.
Tedesco said police were reviewing security camera footage to see if they could determine what had happened to the shooter. In the meantime, he said, the mall remained on “total lockdown.” Many people had been escorted out by police, but Tedesco said many shoppers — perhaps thousands — remained inside at 11:20 p.m.
One witness said 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. The man appeared to be wearing body armor, and had the visor of his helmet pulled up as he walked, she said.
Another witness, Shadey Reyes, 24, a Bergen County resident, was working in the J. Crew store when she heard the shots.
“Everyone froze in place,” she said, then they ran to the parking lot.
The incident happened just before the mall was due to close at 9:30, witnesses said. The mall was surrounded by police cars from Paramus and surrounding communities, grouping mainly in the area around the Nordstrom department store.