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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Pembroke Pines Police stood guard outside Macy’s at the Pembroke Lakes Mall Friday night after reports of shots fired inside the mall. But these reports were inaccurate.
“At no point were any shots fired,” said Police Sgt. Adam Feiner. “There was no threat to community in any manner whatsoever to the community concerning a firearm being discharged.”
Feiner described a chain of events that began with a physical fight between some people in the mall over a stroller. It’s unclear what prompted the fight. Police say that led to people panicking and running through the mall, with some erroneously claiming that shots had been fired. That led to an off-duty police officer — not from Pembroke Pines — to respond to the commotion with a gun drawn.
“That information prompted members of the Pembroke Lakes Mall security team to advise or indicate that shots were indeed fired at the mall,” Feiner said.
And that’s what police responded to.
“Public safety is our most important concern,” Feiner said. “Whether we know at the time of dispatch that shots were fired or shots were not fired law enforcement is going to respond to information we’re receiving from our dispatch center.”
CBS 4 News spoke with a man named Ronan who works in the mall near Macy’s. He described some of the chaos.
“I heard like a few bangs,” Ronan said. “We thought it was gunshots but I guess it was just people knocking things over.”
Ronan said people flooded his store.
“Everybody just rushed in,” he explained. “Everybody was panicking. Everybody rushed in, panicking.”
Within a few minutes, the chaos subsided. Police determined the man with a gun was an off-duty officer and they sorted out the details of the fight that started the whole thing. But this is just the latest in a series of false alarms at malls in South Florida. Ronan offered some perspective.
“There’s so many crimes and massacres, people are just scared for their lives and their kids and they want to get out of there,” he said. “They don’t want to take any chances.”
There was a trove of misinformation on this incident reported on social media with some claiming a mass shooting at the mall. Police say a good idea in these incidents is to seek out legitimate sources on social media for accurate information, like police departments and other responding agencies.