False shooting reports at Westland Mall in Hialeah, Florida sparked a panic, with shoppers running out of the shopping center in fear as word spread on social media, according to social media accounts. However, a Telemundo assignment editor reported on Twitter that, although people thought they heard gunshots, no shooter was found, and there were no reports of injuries. Indeed, the entire panic may have been sparked by something falling in the mall, according to an ABC News correspondent.
“False Alarm. Something fell in the mall and made a loud noise. Someone pulled the fire alarm and people rushed out. Everyone is going back inside now. No one was injured. #WestlandMall,” reported Victor Oquendo of ABC News.
“At this moment there are lots of rumors but police have not been able to confirm anything,” WSVN-TV wrote on Facebook. According to CBS Miami, police swarmed the mall after someone reported hearing gunshots. “Police inside the mall and outside are looking for the source of gunshots. Police are not sure (if) the shots were fired inside the mall or in the mall’s parking lot,” the television station reported, adding that no one appears to have been shot.
Still, it was a frightening scene at the mall. “Tiroteó en el Westland mall! This is crazy!!! They locked everybody in a storage room! Its scary!” wrote a woman named Dalma Rodriguez on Twitter. Reports on Twitter focused on the JCPenney store at the mall. ABC10 reported, “Police officers were investigating reports of shots fired at Westland Mall in Hialeah during a busy Black Friday. Witnesses reported seeing hundreds of people running out of the mall at 1675 W. 49 St.”
Several local television stations were live from the scene:
Here’s another live feed:
Here’s another view:
Authorities had not yet confirmed what was going on as the news broke on social media on November 24. In some past circumstances, other mall attack reports have turned out to be false panics too, but people are on high alert after mass shootings in other communities.
The mall’s official Twitter page made no mention of the incident, as shoppers swarmed there for Black Friday sales the day after Thanksgiving. However, people wrote on social media that they were locked down inside the mall. “We’re on lockdown at Westland Mall we believe there is an active shooter. Stay away from Westland Mall,” wrote one woman on Twitter.
False panic or not, it was a frightening experience for many people as rumors were rampant and people fled. One man, Cristian Vasquez, wrote on Twitter, “Im at westland and everyone is losing their wits, i just saw everyone running and people yelling, next thing i know i see armed cops with bullet proof vest swarming the scene.” Another man, Alfredo Vasquez, wrote, “reports of a #shooting inside #JCPenny in #WestlandMall, #Hialeah police dept have surrounded all exits of the Mall. If you have family around that area, contact them. #cityofhialeah#activeshooter.” Ylette Marichal wrote, “Guys, please be careful if you’re thinking of going to Westland mall. We have a family member there who just gave word that there is a shooter and he hasn’t been caught yet.”
Some unconfirmed reports said shots might have been fired inside a JCPenney store at the mall. Another person wrote, “Ummmm driving next to Westland mall. Stopped at a light & I just see a whole crowd of people running out the mall with kids & all running across the busy street. What. The. F*ck is happening ?!?!?!?!?! I hope everyone is okay. Omg I’m having a panic attack right now.” Reports varied. One Twitter user wrote of a bomb threat, not a shooting: “STAY OUT OF #WESTLAND MALL . MY AUNT WAS JUST THERE SHE SAYS THERES SOME KIND OF BOMB THREAT HAPPENING RIGHT NOW SHE ALMOST GOT TRAMPLED.”
Here are more of the tweets people are sharing about the mall. One person reported being on lock down in Sears. Another woman wrote, “I’m Stuck in Westland mall because there’s a shoot out…. people are so stupid putting others in harm.”
This post will be updated as more is learned about the incident.