Sawgrass Mills Mall reopens after shoplifting incident prompts evacuation

SUNRISE, FLA. (WSVN) - Sawgrass Mills Mall has reopened after a shoplifting incident led police to evacuate the shopping center and search for a subject who was reportedly wielding a knife.

Sunrise Police responded to the mall located at 12801 West Sunrise Blvd., at around 2:40 p.m., Sunday.

Witnesses took to social media to document the pandemonium inside, as shoppers fearing an active shooter situation sprinted for the exits.

“Everybody runs, and everybody left everything,” said shopper Marc Djan. “Everybody was falling down trying to run away from that.”

“We just saw a stampede and running, and it was like everyone screaming,” said another shopper.

Cellphone video captured the mall’s nearly empty food court. Paper plates and cups littered the floor, and there were several overturned chairs.

In some social media posts, some shoppers claimed they heard gunshots.

“Everybody was saying everything and nothing, like, ‘It was five guns.’ Things like that,” said Djan.

Officials said the commotion stemmed from a strong-arm robbery at the mall.

The shoplifter was first reported to have been wielding a knife, but now police said the thief was not armed at all.

Investigators said loss prevention staff at one of the mall’s stores attempted to tackle the shoplifter, knocking over some garbage cans.

The sound was mistaken by shoppers as gunfire.

Some shoppers told 7News they were on lockdown inside stores. Others hid under tables and in dressing rooms.

Shopper Kenisha Sinclair said she saw officers storming the mall with their guns drawn.

“Some of the police running with their guns, so yeah, that was really scary,” she said.

At the time, most frightened families had no idea what was going on.

“People were, like, running with the items and everything. It was crazy,” said a shopper.

This wasn’t the first time Sawgrass Mills was evacuated due to false active shooter reports. Back in Dec. 31, 2017, a shoplifter set off fireworks at a jewelry store, sending crowds of mallgoers into a frenzy.

But Sunday afternoon’s panic was short-lived. Authorities searched the mall and gave the all clear before 4 p.m.

Sunrise Fire Rescue said there were several shoppers who suffered minor injuries, but no one was transported from the scene.

Police said they have not found the subject, as they continue to investigate.

If you have any information that could help police, call Broward County Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a $3,000 reward.

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