AVENTURA, FLA. (WSVN) - - Authorities have given the all clear at Aventura Mall after initial reports of a shooting caused the shopping center to be evacuated in the middle of the last-minute holiday shopping rush, Saturday night.
At around 8:20 p.m., Aventura Police tweeted out an update about what they initially described as a “possible incident,” urging residents to avoid the area.
Reports of shots fired sent people running for their lives.
Shopper Yves Bien-Aime described the chaotic scene. “We were walking, and we see a lot of people outside screaming, running back towards the opposite direction that we were going,” he said.
Cellphone video posted to Twitter, earlier Saturday night, shows panicked shoppers running away from the mall and toward a parking lot.
“This was during a very busy shopping time, and a lot of people inside the mall, which ended up in a lot of chaos, with people trying to exit the mall,” said Aventura Police Sgt. Chris Goranitis.
“We’re like, ‘What’s going on?’ Everyone’s like, ‘Get down! Get down!'” said one woman.
In a tweet, mall officials indicated the shopping center was being evacuated as a precaution.
But Aventura Police said, as far as they know, there was no gun, and there weren’t any victims.
“We actually received reports of shots fired in different areas of the mall, which led to a very chaotic situation,” said Goranitis, “but luckily, there were no reports of any injuries, and everything is under control at this time.”
The shock sent shoppers across the mall running in every direction. “I felt traumatized,” said Bien-Aime. “My wife was with us; she was at a different store. The kids were like, ‘Where’s Mom? Where’s Mom? Call Mom and find out.’ We tried to text her, call her. There was no answer. I’m still shaking right now.”
“I thought I was gonna die,” said one man.
Officers gave the all clear just before 8:30 p.m.
Families who were doing their last bit of holiday shopping told 7News they were happy to be going home. “Very nice, because the shops were closing, and people running,” said Carlos Lopez.
This was not the first time a South Florida mall felt this kind of terror in what has turned out to be a false alarm. On Nov. 24, a scare shut down Westland Mall in Hialeah, triggering a panic for Black Friday shoppers.
“Apparently, somebody thought that they heard shots fired,” said Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez.
The mall was evacuated. Cameras captured a SWAT team surrounding the mall until authorities found no evidence of a shooting.
Back in Aug. 19, Dolphin Mall became the scene of another shooting scare.
“We just followed the crowd. We heard somebody say that there were shots,” said one frightened shopper.
Rumors of gunfire spread throughout the Sweetwater mall, causing chaos. “I looked to the side, to the entrance, and people were falling and sliding,” said another shopper.
Dolphin Wall was quickly evacuated, but the SWAT team and police officers did not find any proof that shots were ever fired.
Shoppers said they did not know whether the incident stemmed from a misunderstanding or the outcome of some horrific prank. In any case, they indicated, it all felt very real.
One shopper said these mall scares need to end. “It’s the holiday season, like, come on, now,” said one woman. “This shouldn’t be happening.”
Police said they have made no arrests at this time.
Just before 9 p.m., police sent a tweet confirming the mall will remain closed and reopen Sunday morning as scheduled.
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