A U.S. Army soldier stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina was arrested after causing a scare by entering a local mall while carrying an AR-15 rifle, a military-issue ballistic vest and ammunition, police said.
Bryan Wolfinger, 25, was taken into custody outside the Cross Creek Mall without incident after police received several 911 calls reporting a gunman there at about 6:30 p.m., the Fayetteville Observer reports. The mall was locked down for about an hour while police searched the building.
No shots were fired and no injuries were reported.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Was Charged With ‘Going Armed to the Terror of the Public’
Police said Wolfinger was charged with going armed to the terror of the public, a misdemeanor.
According to the Fayetteville Observer, Wolfinger was processed at the Cumberland County Detention Center and then released into the custody of Fort Bragg’s provost marshal.
Going armed to the terror of the public is a class 1 misdemeanor. A person guilty of the charge “arms himself with an unusual and dangerous weapon for the purpose of terrifying others and goes about on public highways in a manner to cause terror to the people,” according to the North Carolina Criminal Law Blog.
According to the 2012 post on the blog, which is run by the University of North Carolina School of Government, the crime was charged in 340 cases in 2011.
North Carolina allows open carry of legally owned weapons, but the Cross Creek Mall, but guns are not allowed at the Cross Creek Mall.
Visitors are asked to refrain from, “carrying or displaying weapons of any kind except those carried by certified law enforcement officers in the performance of their duties,” according to the mall’s code of conduct.
2. He Said He Was Planning on Having His Photo Taken With the Gun & Armor
According to the Fayetteville Observer, police said Wolfinger was at the mall because he was planning to have his photo taken with the rifle and military equipment.
Assistant Police Chief Anthony Kelly told WRAL that Wolfinger didn’t threaten anyone, but police and mall customers were on high alert heading into the 4th of July holiday.
“With the terror alerts that we’ve had, it’s a holiday weekend, it’s the nation’s birthday, our senses are high,” he said. “Thankfully it turned out like it did.”
3. Surveillance Video Showed the Armed Man Walking Into & Out of the Mall
Police told ABC 11 that they reviewed surveillance video that showed Wolfinger walking into and out of the mall multiple times while armed.
“Was this a terrorist attack? We don’t think so,” Fayetteville Assistant Police Chief Anthony Kelly told the news station. “We feel it was an individual who made a bad decision. At about 6:25, we got several calls about a subject with a rifle. Within two minutes, we had officers on the scene. The first two responding officers made contact, gave him a verbal command, [and the] subject complied and they took him into custody.”
According to the Fayetteville Observer, police received multiple reports of ” a subject armed with an assault rifle walking through Macy’s.”
4. The Mall Was Evacuated & Some Employees Locked Themselves Inside Stores as Police Searched the Building
Heavily armed police officers rushed into the building and told those inside the mall to leave. Police did not say how many people were in the mall at the time when they arrived.
“We saw a cop holding a rifle,” Zach Charles told the Fayetteville Observer. “He told us to go ahead and evacuate. I was scared, I left.”
Amirah Williams told WRAL, “It was really chaotic. It was scary. Nobody ever wants to be in a predicament like that. I was panicking. My friends were panicking. Everyone in the mall was panicking. It was just scary.”
Some store employees locked themselves inside their stores and pulled down the security gates as rumors spread about a possible second gunman. Police swept through the building and didn’t find any other armed men.
Police said in a press release Wolfinger “was acting alone and was not in the company of another gunman.”
5. Wolfinger Has Served Overseas in Iraq
A video posted by the 4th Infantry Division’s public affairs office shows Wolfinger sending a holiday message home while serving in Iraq in 2010.
Wolfinger’s social media accounts show that the Maryland native has also been stationed in Hawaii.