Suspect dead in Garden State Plaza Mall shooting

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PARAMUS, N.J. (PIX11) — Richard Shoop’s fateful choice not to shoot anyone at the Garden State Plaza Mall Monday night is consistent with how he was, according to family, friends and his boss.

Two of his friends who were close to Shoop since middle school say he’d never hurt anyone, and chose not to do so Monday.  He always did everything big,  they said, and may have wanted to end him life in a dramatic way.

At the pizzeria where he worked, Victor’s in his hometown of Teaneck, he was seen as positive, sober and reliable employee.

This richer picture of Shoop was emerging as authorities tried to understand why he ended his life as he did.

Shoop, 20, of Teaneck,  N.J., acted alone and apparently never intended to hurt anybody else, authorities said.

His body was discovered by SWAT teams at 3:20 a.m. with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He used a rifle that authorities say he stole from his brother.  He had a history of drug abuse, including MDMA or Molly, Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said at a news conference.

“We do believe the main motive of what he did tonight was suicide., whether self-inflicted or God forbid suicide by cop,” Molinelli said. “It does not appear that he entered the mall to actually shoot anyone.”

Shoop fired into an elevator area, and damaged some store facades, and some shots were fired straight up, officials said. The manner in which he shot suggests clearly he had no intention to harm anyone, as there were many people who were within the reach of his bullets, authorities said.

“This is the nightmare scenario, but fortunately, it didn’t become a nightmare. The only person  here who had any injuries obviously is the deceased shooter,” said police chief Kenneth Ehrenberg. “We had trained … we were ready for the incident.”


Monday night, while there were thousands of shoppers still in the stores, Shoop allegedly fired six rounds indiscriminately in the mall about 9 p.m. but struck nobody. His rifle had been modified to look like an AK-47, but was a “lawful” rifle. It has the caliber of a .22, Molinelli said.

He committed suicide in a long-term storage area behind a construction zone in the mall, police said at a news conference after 4 a.m. Tuesday. The area he chose to commit suicide was described as a “literal byzantine area of new construction,” Molinelli said.  It’s a winding area that is not easily accessible to the public and far away from where he entered.

He was wearing a motorcycle helmet  and blue jeans, officials said. He was not wearing body armor, contradicting witness reports from last night.

Some 400 people were locked into the stores when the lockdown went into effect. Thousands of others scrambled out of the mall in a panic after Shoop allegedly opened fire in an open area of the mall.

“Everyone was just running and no one would stop to tell us anything,” said mall employee Kassandra Asturias.  “Then maybe after a few minutes we see a security guard and he’s telling us to go inside, lock the door, turn off the lights and just wait until someone tells us what to do.”

The 17-year-old and her co-workers were evacuated by a police officer around 12:30 a.m.

Police entered immediately after arriving at the mall, which is 2.5 million square feet. Shoop got away, disappearing into the vast mall.

The mall will remain closed on Tuesday.

“Once cleared to reopen, Westfield Garden State Plaza will resume its regular schedule of operations, and will continue to work with law enforcement and public safety officials to keep our shopping center safe,” the mall operator said in a statement.

One witness, who works in a Swatch store, told PIX11 he saw “a gunman walk in through a California Pizza Kitchen, he was wearing full body armor, a helmet and everything; he walked right past the movers and told them, like ‘I’m not going to hurt you’ and he walked all the way over toward the Nordstrom side and that’s where the gunshots were fired.”

Enrique Rodriguez, who was shopping in the Apple Store at the time, said, “I don’t know if he was aiming at cameras, or aiming at lights,” but Rodriguez confirmed the man was firing up in the direction of the glass roof of the atrium. “We heard loud sounds and then we just saw glass falling.”

“He wasn’t shooting the people, he was just walking quite calmly,” said one woman. “He started shooting really badly and I just started running backwards into the Apple Store.”

She told PIX11 that he was wearing what looked like a motorcycle helmet and had a “very long rifle.”

A woman who identified herself only as Jay, who was also at the mall, said she recognized Shoop right away from his photo on the news.

“When I saw his tattoos on the picture… I’m like it’s obviously him,” she said.

She is a regular customer the pizzeria where Shoop worked and said he was always friendly.

“I would never have expected this from him. He was always full of joy, you could always see him smiling,” she said.

Garden State Plaza shooting Chopper Atrium

Police and SWAT teams from surrounding areas, along with state police, rushed to the scene. Ambulances stood at the ready, but were not needed as customers and employees flooded into the parking lot unharmed.

mall shooting graphic

More than 200 police officers converged on the scene, illuminating the expansive parking lots with flashing blue and red lights.

The Garden State Plaza, which is the largest mall in New Jersey, wasn’t very crowded at the time of the shooting, according to witnesses, as the mall closes at 9:30 p.m.

“We just dropped everything, and other people dropped their stuff and ran out of the store,” said Jackie Gorelick, who was in the Lord & Taylor store when the shooting began. “It was very scary, I’m just shaken up by it.”

The prosecutor said investigators were helped by family members who came forward. Shoop, officials said, left a note at his home, though the contents have not been revealed.

“It is because my son Richard… I am heartbroken over this,” Shoop’s father, Charles, said at his home, where family members were arriving Tuesday morning. “Just imagine if this was one of your kids.”


  • Rob

    Let law abiding citizens in New Jersey carry! In NJ we are defenseless to allow maniacs like this one shoot us.

    • Mark

      We let the legislature out us in harms way and defenseless. Make NJ a shall issue concealed carry state. Because:
      N.J.S.A. 59:2-4. Adoption or failure to adopt or enforce a law. A public entity is not liable for an injury caused by adopting or failing to adopt a law or by failing to enforce any law.
      N.J.S.A. 59:5-4. Failure to provide police protection. Neither a public entity nor a public employee is liable for failure to provide police protection service or, if police protection service is provided, for failure to provide sufficient police protection service.
      N.J.S.A. 59:5-5. Failure to make arrest or retain person arrested in custody. Neither a public entity nor a public employee is liable for injury caused by the failure to make an arrest or by the failure to retain an arrested person in custody.

  • Andrew

    Why am I not surprised that assholes are already trying to politicize this. How about we let the situation get resolved before we start with the political pissing contest eh?

    • guest

      No, it's actually people like you who bully others that cause these people to go on shooting rampages. Learn to shut your mouth.

  • Mike Carney

    My best friend was working in the mall at the time of the shooting working at Solstice on the second floor next to Macy's. He's heard at least 3 shots.

  • Mike Carney

    My best friend in the mall right now said possibly 2 shooters. The lights being out are actually a VERY good sign. It's typical SWAT behavior. It means that they're coming in and sweeping the stores. Keep in mind that SWAT has night vision, most gunmen don't.

    Source: Survivor Disaster: Mall Edition hosted by Navy Seal Cade Courtley which was on SPIKE TV a few years ago.

  • Peter

    Here's an idea: let's start publicly executing all of the maniacs that think its ok to take out their issues on innocent crowds of people. So tired of hearing about these losers taking away lives all of the time. Its time to forcibly stomp out this nonsense.

  • guest

    I always thought our malls were too open and acessible to any maniac. We have to have police assigned to schools and malls, check bags, etc. The Barclay Center in Brooklyn is amazingly security conscience and we need to follow their lead.

  • Katrina

    I work in a resataurant at the GSP and i just feel like we were in the dark for so long. We were literally sitting in the restaurant waiting for instructions on what to do. The scariest part of it all was not knowing what was going on until two people came in and asked, "Did you see the guy with the shotgun shooting in the mall?" You never think that anything is going to happen to you, but then when it finally does its like a smack in the face. I'm just glad no one was hurt.

  • Anom

    i knew the shooter personally and i have seen this gun before two years ago, rich was not a maniac he wasnt crazy, he was a normal kid and he did normal things like work and party and love his friends and family like me and you…. He DIDNT HURT ANYONE HE DIDNT WANT TO HURT ANYONE he told the people I DO NOT WANT TO HURT YOU…. he was normal i loved him as afriend and more.. he had great ideas and wonderful plans for his future why cant u guys just say sorry to his friends and family and drop it instead of making it about gun laws and bullshit that is just stupid… if you want a gun you will find a way to get it… awful how people of america are these days

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