Police responded to a 911 call at 3:45 p.m. Sunday afternoon reporting an active shooter at the Mall at Bay Plaza. The mall was put into lockdown while NYPD investigated and evacuated some stores, but the report was ultimately proven false, according to police.
Authorities say they searched the mall and evacuated some stores, but upon further investigation, the incident was deemed “unfounded.”
Mall attendees were placed under a short lockdown, according to the wife of Macy’s head of security Gerold Carmichael, and then escorted out of the mall to the parking lot.
“My experience was petrifying,” said one mall-goer, Holly. “We were locked in the back room not knowing what was happening.”
Police sources told the Bronx Times on Tuesday that did not believe Sunday’s call 911 was a result of “swatting” — prank calls to emergency services in an attempt to attract armed responders to a particular address — but also did not fully rule it out.
In the past few weeks, two livestreamers and former Trump official Steve Bannon have been among those involved in alleged swatting attempts. Police sources urge people that swatting is a crime, and those who are found to have committed a swatting crime can face a range of charges including filing a false police report, all the way up to making a terroristic threat, a charge that carries heavy legal consequences.
Sunday’s incident marked the second gun-related scare at Bay Plaza in the last three months. In June, what was initially believed to be gunshots was proven to be fireworks set off in the mall, resulting in what Madlin Carmichael called a calm evacuation. Prior to that, there hadn’t been any evacuations at the mall in the two years that Gerold Carmichael had been working security at at the mall, according to his wife.
“[The June] evacuation wasn’t chaotic,” said Madlin Carmichael. “You know, my husband came home and told me it wasn’t that crazy.”
This time, Madlin Carmichael found herself more skeptical about the severity of the threat after receiving a call from her husband.
“He says we’re evacuating right now,” Madlin Carmichael told the Bronx Times. “Everybody’s safe, because I haven’t seen anyone laying on the floor or anyone going into an ambulance right now.”
Madlin Carmichael described the call as very calm, with no disorder happening in the background. However mall-goers like Holly were left in the dark.
“We were told to run out of the building to evacuate,” Holly said.
After the call with her husband, Madlin Carmichael waited 20 minutes to hear from him again, this time to say he was evacuated and headed home.
To her understanding, Bay Plaza mall uses a phone application to stay in contact with each store in case of emergency. If a threat is present at one store in the mall, all others would be notified by an employee or security guard before it escalates.
Security at the Mall at Bay Plaza declined to comment on the incident.
-Robbie Sequeira contributed to the report
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