NewsPalm Beach CountyRegion N Palm Beach CountyPalm Beach Gardens


Gardens Mall secure, incident was 'not an active shooter'

'Gardens Police are following up on investigative leads into potential suspect(s),' city says
Chopper 5 view of police tape outside P.F. Chang's at Gardens Mall, Feb. 14, 2024
Posted at 3:04 PM, Feb 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-14 23:47:25-05

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — The Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens is secure following reports of gunshots fired on Wednesday, city officials said.

A law enforcement official confirmed with WPTV that the shooting, which took place around 2:30 p.m., was possibly gang-related. One victim showed up at St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach, but their condition was unclear. No bystanders were reportedly injured.

Palm Beach Gardens

'Screams of ... terror' heard during Gardens Mall shooting

Joel Lopez
11:08 PM, Feb 14, 2024

Though the mall closed early Wednesday, mall security was no longer blocking traffic. Some cars were in the parking lot that people needed to pick up. There are more than 150 specialty shops and restaurants in 1.4 million square feet.

There was no word whether the mall would open Thursday at its scheduled time of 10 a.m.

The city said in a statement just after 6 p.m. that it was "not an active shooter" event, and it did not appear to be a random shooting. No arrests have been reported.

The city said at 5:25 p.m. that they were not planning to have a news conference despite the chaotic scene for much of the afternoon.

"The Gardens Mall is now secure but will remain closed for business for the rest of the evening," a statement from city and police said. "We are in the process of escorting the last remaining employees and customers out of the mall. Gardens Police are following up on investigative leads into potential suspect(s). This investigation is ongoing."

Multiple law enforcement agencies responded to the Gardens Mall after possible shots were fired on Feb. 14, 2024.
Multiple law enforcement agencies responded to the Gardens Mall after possible shots were fired on Feb. 14, 2024.

A person who was inside the mall told WPTV reporter Matt Sczesny she heard five to 10 shots fired.

Toni Lester said she had just left Nordstrom and was walking to Starbucks on the second floor when she heard a "big bang" and wondered if something had fallen. Moments later, she saw "numerous people" running through the mall claiming there was a shooter inside.

"They said, 'There's a shooter in the mall. Get out,'" Lester said.

Lester said she was escorted outside and, before she left, police searched her vehicle. At 5:16 p.m., police were spotted still searching vehicles that were departing the mall.

"I left the mall and every single vehicle that was exiting the mall was searched before we actually left," she said. "I was told to open my windows. They checked my trunk. They checked my windows. They were just making sure nobody was in the car except for me."

Amanda Mackman told WPTV she was in the back of a store where she works as an assistant manager when she heard what sounded like a gunshot and then saw mall patrons running and seeking shelter inside the store. She said she and her co-workers made sure the doors were locked and everyone hid in the back, staying quiet.

Police with long guns were spotted going into the Gardens Mall after a report of shots fired on Feb. 14, 2024.
Police with long guns were spotted going into the Gardens Mall after a report of shots fired on Feb. 14, 2024.

"For me, it was all about making sure I stayed calm, which is hard to do in that situation, because if you're not calm then the customers are not calm, so I really did my job and the customers that, when we were walking out, they said they never felt so safe in their life being in the back of a store while there's a shooting going on in the mall," Mackman said.

Eventually, she said, police came and led everyone outside to safety.

Multiple law enforcement personnel from various agencies rushed to the scene.

Several people who were barricaded inside the mall were escorted out by police.

Palm Beach State College's Palm Beach Gardens campus was also placed on lockdown Wednesday afternoon as a precaution.

wider aerial view of Gardens Mall parking lot after reports of shots fired, Feb. 14, 2024
An aerial view of the Gardens Mall shows a large law enforcement and fire-rescue personnel presence in the parking lot, Feb. 14, 2024, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

According to the School District of Palm Beach County, all schools — Palm Beach Gardens Community High School, Timber Trace Elementary School, Dwight D. Eisenhower K-8 School, and Watson B. Duncan Middle School — resumed normal activities just before 5:30 p.m. Previously the four schools were on limited movement.

Heavy police presence at The Gardens Mall in 2017


Past shootings, fights and other incidents at shopping centers in South Florida

Allen Cone
5:45 PM, Feb 14, 2024

Previous incidents near South Florida malls

The last shooting that occurred near the Gardens Mall, which opened in 1988, happened outside of the Macy's in 2017 in a fight between two men. There were no injuries in that shooting.

In 2015, a security guard fired five warning shots as two alleged shoplifters fled the Saks Fifth Avenue store. No one died or seriously injured.

There were reports of a shooting at the Town Center Mall in Boca Raton in 2019. However, no shots were ever confirmed and police believe the reporting parties possibly were hearing loud noises at the mall that resembled gunshots. However, this ended up being a balloon that was popped.

Then in 2021, there was a shooting at the Aventura Mall in Miami-Dade County. According to the reports from police, the shooting started with a fight inside the mall, and three people were hurt.