Cops: West Hempstead man's shoplifting prompted mall chaos
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Nassau County police have charged a West Hempstead man with petty larceny in an incident that triggered panic and the brief closure of the Roosevelt Field mall on Christmas Eve.
Police said a display case fell over when mall security attempted to detain Aaron Darby, 19, about 1 p.m. Tuesday. He was accused of failing to pay for merchandise at Macy's, and workers and shoppers mistook the sound of the falling case for gunshots.
Darby was released on an appearance ticket Wednesday and is to appear in First District Court in Hempstead on Jan. 7. Online court records show another criminal case is pending against Darby in that court: He faces charges from a Sept. 21 incident of criminal trespass, attempted assault and resisting arrest.
He was released on his own recognizance at an arraignment on those charges and has a Jan. 14 court date.
Tuesday, three people suffered minor leg injuries while rushing to leave the East Garden City mall on a busy Christmas shopping day.
Officers responded to a 911 call of three males fighting inside Macy's, police said. When they arrived, officers saw people fleeing and were told they had heard gunshots. Numerous additional 911 calls brought officers from other precincts, police said.
When the display case crashed, employees of stores initially locked shoppers inside while mall security and police ushered outside those in the open interior areas, police said.
Witnesses at the mall said officials directed them away from the Macy's area once shoppers began to flee. Those insidestores were escorted out, and police directed everyone to drive away from the property, creating a traffic jam that lasted about a half-hour.
The mall reopened about 15 minutes after it was closed, when it was determined no shots had been fired.