BOCA RATON, Fla. — Boca Raton police now say a loud noise that sparked panic and concern at the Town Center Mall on Sunday afternoon was actually caused by a janitor who popped a balloon.
Police have concluded their investigation into the incident, and released the findings on Tuesday.
According to police, surveillance video showed a janitor, who was pushing a garbage cart in the food court area, rolling over and dragging a balloon.
The janitor said he popped the balloon, which caused fears of a shooting and sent shoppers scattering. Detectives said they later found the popped balloon on the floor.
Boca Raton police originally said they responded to multiple reports of shots fired around 3 p.m. on Sunday, but later determined that no shots were fired.
Boca Raton Fire Rescue initially said one person suffered a gunshot wound. However, it was later determined the victim, identified as 30-year-old Julus Augustin, actually hit his head on the push bar of a door while trying to run out of the mall.
"I just saw everybody coming out with me," Augustin told WPTV on Tuesday. "They was running. I saw the security guard say, everybody move out! Everybody move out!"
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Police said an officer found Augustin in the parking lot near Bloomingdale's with a traumatic head injury. He spoke Creole and was drifting in and out of consciousness, so police said he was unable to provide any information at first about how he got hurt.
"I just felt something hit me on my head," said Augustin, who was taken to Delray Medical Center. "I was losing my consciousness."
Augustin, who now has 15 staples in his head, said he doesn't remember much of the incident, but is having trouble sleeping because of it.
Police said there appears to be a delay of several minutes between when the janitor popped the balloon and when people started running.
Surveillance video showed people in the food court visibly reacting to a loud sound in the area. Some witnesses said they heard a balloon pop, according to police.
Investigators said there is no evidence that a crime occurred or that a weapon was used.
The Town Center Mall is now back open and operating under normal business hours. Extra officers have been assigned to patrol the mall.
Operators of the mall issued this statement to WPTV on Tuesday:
"As stated in today's press statement from Boca Raton Police Services Department, the loud noise has been identified as a popping balloon. We are grateful for the rapid response from police officers who regularly patrol the mall and we are committed to providing a safe and secure shopping environment for our shoppers, retailers and employees. We have a number of proactive security measures in place, both seen and unseen, to maintain a safe environment at our property. We kindly refer all further inquiries to Boca Raton Police Services Department."
Boca Raton police said detectives recovered blood and hair on the door the victim ran into, but no weapon, bullet casings, or rounds of ammunition were found at the scene.