Paramus, N.J — A man wearing all black and a helmet walked into one of the busiest malls in the United States and fired at least six shots before killing himself, authorities and witnesses said. Hundreds of shoppers were locked into stores during the chaos.
No one was injured. The six rounds hit an elevator, an escalator and several storefronts.
The body of the suspected gunman, Richard Shoop, 20, was discovered six hours later, after 3 a.m., in an area under construction at the mall, the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J., just outside New York.
Thousands of shoppers were in the mall, just before closing time Monday night, when the shooting happened. Clarice Forbes, who works at a Talbots store, told NBC New York that she spotted the gunman and that he appeared to fire a rifle into the air.
“When we walked past our store, he looked directly in the store and strolled past. It was very, very terrifying,” she said. “There were so many thoughts going through my head. I was so scared.”
Chief Kenneth Ehrenberg of the Paramus police said that Shoop had stolen the weapon, a gun modified to look like an AK-47, from his brother. He used it to kill himself, said John Molinelli, the Bergen County prosecutor.
Molinelli said that Shoop had a drug history, but that there was no early indication why he carried out the shooting.
Law enforcement officers worked into the night to search the mall and get everyone out of the stores. The mall, which has more than 200 stores and 50 restaurants, will be closed Tuesday.
A senior law enforcement official told CNBC that the law enforcement response was “textbook,” including SWAT teams and police. Authorities do not know whether the weapon was concealed, the official said.
About 20 million shoppers visit the mall every year, according to its owner, Westfield Group. The stores cover 2.1 million square feet.
Last December, a masked gunman opened fire at a mall in Oregon and killed two people before taking his own life. Two months before that, a man killed his wife and two others at a mall in Wisconsin before killing himself.