SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – It was a major scare inside Arden Fair Mall as people were in a panic, and customers were caught in a chaotic situation, fearing the worst after reports of a gunman in the mall Wednesday.
“It was like really scary, especially with all the events that are happening in the past,” shopper Kendall Elin said.
Luckily there was no shooting, but the scene can only be described as chaotic.
“Everybody was just running past us. We didn’t know what was going on, so we ran out the door,” Elin said.
There was panic as thousands tied to make sense of the chaos by the food court. Within moments, the after-Christmas shopping rush turned into an all out stampede for safety.
“Everybody was running,” witness Tre Duncan said. “You could feel the vibration in the store.”
“They closed a gate. All the workers, they were like ‘close the gate, close the gate,’ cause everybody was running to different stores,” shopper Julie Campos said.
The mall mayhem started just before 5 p.m. Wednesday.
“There was a group of juveniles going through the mall, pushing people around and knocking over signs,” Officer Doug Morse said.
The sounds of signs hitting the floor were confused for gunfire, which caused almost instant panic and sent shoppers scrambling.
“One person in the store said that someone shot a gun,” said one witness.
Stores inside the mall followed security measures and locked down.
“Over the loud speaker, they just start screaming ‘get out the mall, get out the mall,’ ” said David Smith.
Police reviewed surveillance video, and saw there were no shots fired, but investigators say the commotion was criminal.
Three people, two adults and one juvenile, were arrested and booked for fighting in public. The two adults have been identified as 19-year-old Dremon O’Deal and 18-year-old Louis Santiago. They face charges of fighting in a public place. The third suspect, a 15-year-old male, also faces the same charge.
Arden Fair Mall’s security chief says his team had an eye on the suspects, and decided to kick them out just before the chaos went down.
“It’s situations like this with the high volume of people that we do train for,” Morse said.
Mall officials say their security team trains each year with police for an active shooter situation, and works with Homeland Security on how to use surveillance to spot problems before they start.
However, with the recent mall shooting in Portland, and the Connecticut elementary school tragedy, it’s clear everyone was on high alert.
“My son said ‘mom you got really scared.’ You take that seriously because you just never know when there is going to be a shooting, you just don’t know,” shopper Patrice Thomason-Bell said.
Stores can have employees take a class about what to do in an active shooter situation. There is also an alert system at the mall. If the message goes out, all businesses must close. It’s unclear if that alert went out, but it appears that many of the stores did shut down.