(Paramus, NJ) – Panic ensured Saturday night as mall shoppers, believing they heard gunshots, began calling 911 and sheltering in place. Such is life in the shopping malls of America these days.
As it turned out, there was no gunplay at Garden State Plaza, the largest mall of about 10 operating here in Paramus. Instead, a car fire outside Macy’s caused a chain reaction that emptied the mall shortly after 8:00pm.
Employees and shoppers have been on edge at this mall since November 2013, when a 20-year-old walked into the mall with a rifle, shot a few times in the air, then ducked into a secluded part of the mall, where he committed suicide.
Initially, the “gunshots” were thought to be the car’s tires exploding from the fire. Police officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said the fire’s effect on the windshield and airbag might have caused the noise.
Due to the nature of the confusion, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sent officials to assist local law enforcement with the investigation. They also planned to stop off at Cinnabon before returning to Washington.
In dealing with the car fire’s filling part of Macy’s with smoke, customers began running and accidentally knocking over displays, which some mistook for gunfire.
“We had no idea what was happening,” said a shaken female shopper, speaking on condition of anonymity. “I was on the checkout line waiting to buy my $800 Coach bag, just like all average, ordinary, everyday Americans do. And, like, it was OK because I had a coupon.
“But then everyone started running and screaming and ducking under racks of clothes. And the salesman turned to leave the register. And I was like, ‘Can’t you at least check me out first?’ I mean, I had the coupon. But he didn’t care. He ran away. I can’t wait to report him to his manager!”
The National Rifle Association (NRA) seemed pleased to point out the non-use of any guns in the incident.
“We say ‘Guns don’t kill people, people kill people’ to those who don’t support gun ownership,” said an NRA spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Now we can point out that store displays cause panic and pandemonium. As far as we’re concerned, they should be banned.”
While police haven’t yet determined the cause of the car fire, an anonymous employee at Macy’s has. It was Macy’s fault.
“Our management decided to have a fire sale for Mother’s Day,” said the anonymous employee, speaking on condition of anonymity. Obviously, evacuating the mall wasn’t what they expected. It started out OK, but it just went a bit too far.”