A fight at the Roosevelt Field mall on one of the busiest days of the year caused pandemonium Monday evening as panicked shoppers, some of whom mistakenly thought gunshots were fired, ran for cover, sending seven people to the hospital with minor injuries, police said.
Nassau police received the first call reporting erroneously that shots had been fired at the mall at 6:36 p.m., police said.
Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said there was a fistfight at the mall’s food court and apparently other shoppers, reacting to the melee, called 911 reporting someone was shooting a firearm in the mall.
Krumpter said there were no shots fired, but a large contingent of police officers responded to the mall. No arrests were immediately reported, he said.
“It’s the scariest thing in my whole life,” said Port Washington resident Margaret Kujan, 58, who had just purchased a pocketbook from Nordstrom when a “stampede” of shoppers ran past.
Confused, she and her daughter took off with the crowd.
She said a Nordstrom employee directed them to a storage room, where they were locked in as part of a security measure with about a dozen others for about 10 minutes.
“It seemed like a lifetime,” the mother said.
Meanwhile, she said her husband and son were elsewhere in the mall.
“I was in shock,” she said, before calling 911.
Later, her group was escorted from the stock room to the store’s third level.
“It was frightening.”
Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun said in a news conference outside the mall that police would examine surveillance videos from the food court to see whether they could identify the person who started the fight.
The department received 70 calls to its 911 center reporting the incident, including many mistakenly under the impression that a shooting occurred.
The day after Christmas is traditionally one of the busiest days of the year for retailers as customers flock to stores to return or exchange gifts.
A similar ruckus ignited by a suspected shoplifter on Christmas Eve 2013 triggered a panic and brief closure of the mall and injured three people.
At the time, police said a display case fell over when mall security attempted to detain a man accused of failing to pay for merchandise at the Macy’s. Workers and shoppers mistook the sound of the falling case for gunshots. The mall reopened about 15 minutes after it was closed, when it was determined no shots had been fired.