Shoppers flee Elizabeth mall after report of gunshots
Police responded to reports of shots fired at The Mills at Jersey Gardens mall in Elizabeth Monday, only to learn that the sounds of a scuffle and a falling chair prompted cries of shots fired.
Around 5 p.m., witnesses contacted News 12 New Jersey to say they heard gunshots ring out inside the mall.
But a spokesperson for the City of Elizabeth later confirmed that no bullets were fired. They said someone mistook the sound of a slamming chair for a gunshot, prompting panic and chaos.
According to the mayor of Elizabeth, a disturbance involving four young women triggered the ensuing chaos.
Shoppers began fleeing the mall, and there are reports that some of them were injured trying to escape.
Elizabeth officials say the ensuing stampede hurt at least eight people, mostly with minor injuries. One person broke their leg, and an 8-year-old was cut on the finer. Drivers faced gridlocked traffic around the mall.
"The stores closed," says Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage. "They locked their personnel inside...and whatever customers were in there."
Bollwage says social media helped fuel the panic and "was a real detriment to a safe evacuation."
A man outside the mall told News 12 that he was waiting for a cousin inside the mall who witnessed the incident. The cousin, he said, told him that a chair was thrown in a scuffle between two people. The witness said one of the people involved showed a gun but did not fire it.
In a statement, the mall confirmed that an incident had occurred and ended. Further questions were directed to the Elizabeth Police Department.
The mall reopened as normal Tuesday.