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Police determine panic at Town Center Mall in Boca Raton was not caused by gunfire

Posted at 3:42 PM, Oct 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-14 18:40:32-04

BOCA RATON, Fla. — The Town Center Mall in Boca Raton reopened Monday morning after a mysterious loud noise caused panic and concern among shoppers on Sunday, and sent one person to the hospital.


Police determine panic at Town Center Mall in Boca Raton was not caused by gunfire

Police responded to multiple reports of shots fired around 3 p.m. Sunday, but later determined that no shots were fired.

"The tips seem to center around a loud noise that occurred," said Boca Raton Police Chief Dan Alexander.

Related: Shoppers recount panic at Town Center

Chief Alexander said a man, who originally was reported as having had a possible gunshot wound, actually experienced a trauma injury after hitting his head on a door while trying to flee the mall.

"I hear a boom! And I thought that boom was like a balloon or someone falling or something," said witness Stephanie Silva. "But as I look back, I see a bunch of kids yelling and crying and screaming, 'run, run, run, a shooter!'"

Detectives were able to recover both blood and hair on that door.

Investigators have not identified any suspect or evidence of shots being fired. The police chief said no weapon, casings, or rounds of ammunition were found at the scene.

"We have not identified any suspect, no gunshots, or gunfire," said Chief Alexander. "Right now we’re currently combing with assistance of ATF. They have dogs that can determine that, so that will be a focus of our investigation.”

According to Chief Alexander, the tips police have received centered around a loud noise that occurred.

"The important thing to remember is that something happened in that mall today to cause people to get concerned, a lot of people," Chief Alexander said.

At this time, detectives do not know what made the loud noise that caused the panic. The investigation is ongoing and police are still reviewing surveillance video from inside the mall.

"That fight or flight is a direct response to our constant understanding or awareness that this could happen when we walk into a venue," said Kate Polk, a mental health counselor.

Polk said a loud noise in a food court can spark the same fight or flight reaction as if it were gunfire. That's why she advises people to prepare themselves to react in situations like this, something she calls 'AWARE Process.'

"A is asses, assessing the situation. W is what is the plan. A is action, so enacting the plan. R is reassessing, reassign the situation. And E is emotion, finding a way to unpack the emotion," said Polk.

Polk said 'AWARE' is a quick way to check yourself in a situation.

"If you have a plan in place and prepared, you are more likely to respond in a thoughtful, meaningful way than respond in a fight or flight way," said Polk.

Operators of the mall issued this statement to WPTV on Monday:

"As this is a police matter, please refer all inquiries to Boca Raton Police Services Department."

If anyone has any information or witnessed the noise or incident at the mall on Sunday, Boca Raton police are asking you to call their tip line at 561-416-3359.