WARNING: Video contains graphic language
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah, August 6, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — Fears of an active shooter sent hundreds of Valley Fair Mall-goers scrambling for cover Tuesday night when a large sign crashed to the ground and was accidentally mistaken for gunfire.
Throngs of people charged through the mall, some hiding in the backrooms of businesses, while others ran into the parking lot.
Dozens of officers from multiple agencies converged on the scene, some of whom scuffled with crowds as they tried to flee the imaginary shooter.
Roxanne Vainuku, spokesperson for West Valley City Police Department, explained that a musical performance was going on at the mall and had drawn a sizable crowd.
“During the musical performance a large crowd gathered, and the sign fell. Someone yelled ‘Shots!,’ which caused a panic, and everyone ran in every direction,” Vainuku said.
WVCPD arrived and immediately began searching the mall for anyone who may have been injured or who may have witnessed a shooter.
It soon became clear, though, that the noise of the falling sign had been misinterpreted as gunfire.
As shoppers and movie-goers crowded the halls or hid inside stores, mall management decided to close everything down for the night and asked the police to evacuate everyone from the property, which they did.
Vainuku said parents would be able to reunite with their unaccompanied minor children at the West Valley City Hall parking lot across the street at 3600 Constitution Blvd.
Later Tuesday night, West Valley City police tweeted that the Megaplex movie theater that is part of Valley Fair Mall was reopened, but the rest of the mall remained closed.
As the possibility of an active shooter situation was still unfolding, the call went out for multiple police agencies to respond, Vainuku told Gephardt Daily.
She wasn’t sure if the additional police response was called off before more agencies arrived, but said when law enforcement is faced with something like a potential active shooter situation, they will call in all available resources from everywhere.
“It’s ‘National Night Out Against Crime,’ with block parties all over,” Vainuku said. “So officers attending block parties were called in.”
Police train for active shooter situations all the time, she said, adding that officers know exactly what to do, where to go “like clockwork.”
There were a few reports of fights breaking out as people attempted to run for cover and got caught up in the crush going into or coming out of stores, but Vainuku characterized them as “a few scuffles” due to the general panic. No one was injured, she said.