NEW YORK - A gunman fired a single shot inside a New Jersey mall and was on the loose after apparently fleeing the huge shopping center, officials in Paramus, N.J., said late Monday.
Hundreds of law enforcement officials had converged on the mall after reports of gunfire. There were no reports of injuries.
"We are searching for a shooter," the mayor of Paramus, Richard Labarbiera, told reporters outside the Garden State Plaza Mall.
Jim Tedesco, deputy coordinator of the Bergen County Office of Emergency Management, said: "The shooter, we believe, has left the mall. We have found … a single shell casing."
[Update at 11:50 p.m., Nov. 4: Authorities believe the gunman may still be inside the mall early Tuesday. A Bergen County spokeswoman told the Associated Press that SWAT teams were focusing their search in a corner of the 2.2-million-square-foot mall near a Nordstrom store.]
Labarbiera said there was a "confirmed single shot," although several witnesses described hearing several shots before mall security began yelling at people to flee.
Officials said they were investigating whether more than one shot was fired but that so far only one spent shell casing had been found. Tedesco said he thought it came from a long gun.
"At this time, we have determined that it is not an active shooting incident but we must make sure that the entire mall is checked, so we are going store by store, floor by floor, to evacuate the people that are in the stores," Tedesco said.
At least two people who were inside the mall told television and other media that they saw the shooter firing into the air, not at people.
The witnesses said the person had a long rifle and was wearing black and what appeared to be a helmet.
Althea Brown, 26, of Paterson, N.J., said she was in Talbots, a clothing store in the mall, when she saw the gunman walk by.
"He looked at me and kept on walking," she said. She said she heard three shots, then two more. The man appeared to be wearing body armor and had the visor of his helmet pulled up as he walked, she said.
Another witness, Shadey Reyes, 24, a Bergen County resident, was working in the J. Crew store when she heard shots.
"Everyone froze in place," she said, then ran to the parking lot.
One woman who was in Nordstrom told the local ABC affiliate WABC that she heard several loud bangs.
"It almost sounded like someone was dropping something in the mall," said the woman, who did not want her name used. "It was very strange. And then when we heard it the second time, everyone started running."
Ben Fastman, who works at a stall that sells hair products, said people began running and shouting, "There’s shooting, there’s shooting," the Paramus Patch reported.
The mall, the largest in New Jersey, has more than 300 stores.