MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Sweetwater’s police chief says the report of a shooting at the Dolphin Mall on Saturday night, which prompted widespread panic, was nothing more than a hoax.
Video on social media showed panic inside the mall as store customers and employees could be heard screaming and that video showed police with guns drawn.
“There is nothing to support that this was anything but a hoax,” Police Chief Placido Diaz told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench. “There were no shots, no casings and no shooter. Nobody was injured. There was nothing found to indicate there was any shooting whatsoever.
“There is some dispute as to where this started only because we don’t know if there was any noise associated with the incident. I can tell you I like to look on the positive side of this incident. Nobody was injured and I am glad that it showed a plan was in place with other agencies.”
Diaz thanked all of the agencies that responded including Miami-Dade fire rescue and police and Doral Police and the FBI.
Diaz said no victims or witnesses had come forward on top of not having any evidence indicating a shooting took place at the mall located at 11401 NW 12th Street.
“We implore the public that if anyone saw anything to indicate someone may have doing something like using a firecracker or pulling an alarm or something that may have triggered this to contact police because they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.
According to authorities, it was just after 9 p.m. on Saturday when a city of Sweetwater officer asked Miami-Dade Police for help.
The officer told them there was a large crowd of people running toward the exits, screaming that shots were being fired.
One woman fleeing the mall told CBS4, “We were in a store and somebody came out and said there was a shooting in the hallway.”
Another woman said, “My nephew ran and get me and said we have to get out.”
Crews responded to the mall and a perimeter was established as they evacuated the area.
The Miami-Dade Police Department’s Special Response team and K9 units searched the mall, but no scene or gunshot victim was found.
“The FBI Joint terrorism task force arrived within minutes. We’ve been doing an active shooter raining here at the Dolphin Mall for more than a decade,” said Sweetwater City Commissioner Marcos Villanueva, a former police officer. “Whoever did this can be criminally prosecuted and charged with the cost of recovery in this incident. You are talking about thousands of dollars in law enforcement man hours not to mention the response from the Miami-Dade Fire Department.”
John Rivera, the president of the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association, commended the response by police.
“Our job is to make sure the public is safe and to take every threat as if it is a real threat. They had to act quickly and move quickly,” he said. “Especially nowadays, you cannot take any threat as anything but the real deal. You have to act on every one. And we need to make sure law enforcement has the resources to make our community safe because if this was the real one, we would need all hands on deck.”
Dolphin Mall was reopened and will continue with normal business operations.
Miami-Dade Police continue to investigate the incident.
Police urge anyone with information to come forward and call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at (305) 471-TIPS.