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N.J. mall evacuated when sound of car fire mistaken for gunshots

By Allie Malloy and Ralph Ellis, CNN
updated 11:13 AM EDT, Sun May 11, 2014
  • The incident occurred at the Westfield Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus
  • People at first thought they heard gunshots
  • A car fire caused the scare, authorities said
  • Last year, a gunman opened fire in the mall

(CNN) -- Police evacuated a mall in New Jersey on Saturday night after people mistook a car explosion for gunfire, a law enforcement official said.

Panic ensued at Westfield Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus, with some taking to Twitter to say a shooting had occurred.

A car's battery or fuel tank caught fire and caused a small explosion, creating the noise some people mistook for gunfire, a law enforcement official told CNN

"Due to that car fire ... smoke started entering the mall there," Lt. Kenneth R. Ehrenberg of the Paramus Police Department told CNN affiliate WABC.

"At some point, we received a call, people said they heard loud noises, possibly shots in that area of the mall. Nobody saw any gunman. Nobody saw anybody shooting, anything."

The owner of the vehicle was interviewed by police and cleared, authorities said.

A real shooting occurred November 4, 2013, at the mall, causing an evacuation.

Authorities said a man fired at least six bullets inside the mall without striking anybody. Richard Shoop's body was found at 3:20 a.m. the next day in an obscure part of the mall.

Police said he killed himself.