ELIZABETH, N.J. — Thousands of panicked shoppers evacuated the Mills at Jersey Gardens Monday evening after shoppers mistook a loud bang for gunfire.
Police responded to a report of a shooting in the mall about 5 p.m. Shoppers started running for the exits when someone yelled “shots fired,” causing mass chaos, the Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage told PIX11 News.
“It was like shouting fire in a crowded movie theater,” Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage told PIX11 News.
Eight people sustained minor injuries, the mayor said. Several victims were taken to area hospitals for further evaluation.
Mayor Bollwage said an 8-year-old had a cut finger and a 12-year-old with a leg injury.
Videos posted on Instagram and Twitter showed shoppers rushing out the building as armed officers entered to investigate.
The mall evacuation caused a massive traffic jam with gridlock conditions.
Mayor Bollwage said the roads have reopened around the mall but traffic is heavy.
The mall will remain closed until Tuesday. A spokeswoman from the mall said “the safety and security of our guests and employees is our top priority.”
The Elizabeth Police Department will analyze what lessons to learn about exiting thousands of people from the mall in an emergency.
About 45,000 people were at Jersey Gardens Mall for the day after Christmas shopping.
Multiple mall disturbances were reported nationwide Monday evening.
At Roosevelt Field mall, a fight in the foodcourt also created panic, Nassau County police said. Someone yelled “gun!” but there was no weapon found. Seven people were injured as people rushed to the nearest exit. The mall will be open tomorrow and no arrests have been made.
In North Carolina, a mall was evacuated when a fight broke out and sent shoppers fleeing. Police said they were called to Cross Creek Mall because of a disturbance. Some witnesses said they thought they heard shots fired, but there was no evidence of it.
Multiple fights were reported at the Aurora Mall in Colorado.
Police asked people to avoid the area unless they were picking up a loved one.
Aurora Police tweeted they do not believe the fights were connected to the other brawls across the nation.