Lockdowns, fear rippled from shooting scene, fraying nerves
Frightened shoppers, employees and residents sought refuge in cars, homes and a sprawling shopping mall in the Garden City area Wednesday as police hunted for an armed killer.
Lockdowns rippling from the shooting scene unnerved hundreds huddled inside Roosevelt Field mall, public schools, a day care center and Nassau Community College.
The upscale mall -- visited by 20 million people a year -- was closed to shoppers for nearly four hours at police request starting at about 10:45 a.m. Some stores wound up closing for the day.
For many, it was all too easy to believe that last week's deadly rampage by terrorists at a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, could be repeated on Long Island.
"This is terrifying," said one shopper, Nancy Petrillo of Garden City. "After what happened in Kenya, everyone is already on edge."
Dozens of Nassau officers combed the outside of the mall, searching shrubs with guns drawn as a police helicopter circled overhead. Shoppers leaving the mall were ordered to get back inside. People in the parking lot were told to stay in their cars.
Minutes before, a shooting erupted inside an East Garden City business, killing one man and wounding another.
"I recognized that something serious was happening," said David Kilmnick, who took shelter inside the mall after his route to work was blocked by police.
Kilmnick, CEO of the Long Island GLBT Services Network, a nonprofit advocacy group, said there was "no sense of panic" as people turned to cellphones for news updates and made calls to reassure family members and co-workers.
More than three hours after the shooting, patrol cars still blocked the parking lots at a number of local stores.
Garden City's seven public schools were locked down for most of the day, although classes continued.
Some parents of the 600 elementary students at Stewart School, about a mile from the shooting scene, had frayed nerves.
"It's really, really scary to hear news like that," said Connie Tarian, who came with the mother of a Stewart student. "I don't want to go back to my house right now."
Deneen Roessler, a physician and mother of three who was picking up her son, praised the district for keeping parents informed -- and practicing safety drills. "I don't think the kids were in panic mode," she said.
During the manhunt, a day care center and pre-K program across from the Nassau Coliseum were locked down and security was tightened, parents said.
NCC officials told students, faculty and staff to remain inside whatever building they were in. Students on their way to campus were told to steer clear until the lockdown was over.
The restrictions at Roosevelt Field lasted until about 2:30 p.m. Nordstrom opted to reopen, spokeswoman Tara Darrow said.
"I hope everybody felt safe and secure," she said. "We were being abundantly cautious."
With Keiko Morris, Candice Ferrette, John Hildebrand, Patricia Kitchen, Tania Lopez, Aisha al-Muslim and Kevin Deutsch