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Long IslandCrime

New Jersey mall gunman tried to calm terrorized shoppers

An official wearing tactical gear walks outside of

An official wearing tactical gear walks outside of Garden State Plaza Mall following reports of a shooter in Paramus, N.J. (Nov. 4, 2013) Credit: AP

The gunman who dressed in black and wore a motorcycle helmet as he terrorized hundreds of New Jersey mall shoppers took pains to calm them before taking his own life, which his brother Tuesday called an act "of self-indulgence."

In the days before he died, Richard Shoop, 20, a pizza deliveryman, became uncommunicative and didn't show up at work, his boss said.

Shoop sparked panic Monday just before the 9:30 p.m. closing time at the Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J., the state's largest mall, firing at least a half-dozen shots from what appeared to be an automatic weapon. As hundreds of terrified shoppers fled into the parking lots and hundreds of mall workers locked themselves in bathrooms and other store spaces, an army of more than 500 law-enforcement officers surrounded the premier shopping venue just 10 miles west of the George Washington Bridge.

Shoop took his own life in the mall's basement, ending the latest episode in a spate of high-profile shootings that have rocked the nation and the world.

"We do not believe he came here with the intention to harm anybody other than himself," Paramus Mayor Richard LaBarbiera said. "He actually went out of his way to avoid contact with people and actually assured some of them, 'Don't worry -- get out of my way.' "

It was about 3:20 a.m. that police found Shoop's body in what the mayor called a "catacomb" basement area normally off limits to the public.

"He just sadly decided to make it an act, I guess, of self-indulgence," said brother Kevin Shoop, who addressed reporters outside the two-story colonial-style family home in Teaneck, N.J. He said his brother was well-liked in the neighborhood, but declined to comment about reports his brother had a drug problem.

Leading up to Monday's assault, Shoop's boss noticed some changes in the young man, who worked delivering food.

Normally outgoing, Shoop, 20, became more subdued, something Robert Gega, manager of Victor's Pizzeria in Teaneck, chalked up to fatigue. Then, the day after Halloween, Shoop didn't show up for work and didn't respond to his boss' messages.

"I was calling him two or three times, sending messages, but he never responded," Gega recalled Tuesday.

"Obviously that young man went there to end his own life. We may not be that lucky next time," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told reporters after casting his ballot Tuesday.

Bergen County prosecutor John Molinelli said that Shoop was known to authorities and had a drug problem, which he didn't elaborate on. He said Shoop left a note, which said "that an end is coming," perhaps referring to jail.

LaBarbiera said the massive law-enforcement response was expedited by a recent shooting drill conducted by the mall operator and local police in an open area of the mall.

The mayor said Shoop entered from a third-floor parking area, took an elevator to the first floor and made his way to the basement.

Mall employee Danielle Oats, 19, said she was afraid a bomb might go off. Following security procedures, she and others locked themselves in a bathroom until police arrived.

Westfield Garden State officials plan to reopen the mall Wednesday.

At Victor's Pizzeria, where a slice goes for $2.25, Gega said he planned to close early Tuesday night. With AP

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