Suspected N.J. mall gunman found dead

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Law enforcement officials gather outside of Garden State Plaza following reports of a shooter Monday.

Law enforcement officials gather outside of Garden State Plaza following reports of a shooter Monday.

The man suspected of firing several shots inside a northern New Jersey mall was discovered dead in an area of the retail center that was undergoing construction, officials said Tuesday.

During an early morning press conference, officials said the reported gunman died of a self-inflicted wound. They identified him as Richard Shoop, 20, of Teaneck, N.J.

No one else was injured in the incident.

Bergen County prosecutor John Molinelli said Shoophad stolen the rifle he used in the shooting from his brother.

Law enforcement officials had swarmed around the Westfield Garden State Plaza mall around 9:20 p.m. ET Monday after witnesses reported multiple gunshots were fired as stores were preparing to close.

“He came to the mall and fired what is at least six rounds at random striking several different locations,” Molinelli said. Panic quickly spread among shoppers and mall employees, he said.

In all, more than 500 SWAT and law enforcement officials searched the mall while an estimated 400 people remained trapped inside, Molinelli said.

“The shooter, for whatever reason, instead of staying and fighting, fled deeper into the mall,” said Chief Kenneth Ehrenberg of the Paramus Police Department. The suspect’s body was found around 3:20 a.m. Tuesday.

Police were still conducting a secondary search of the mall, going store to store and escorting the people still hiding within to safety, Ehrenberg said. He expected the search to continue for several hours.

Shoop did not work at the mall, and police were still seeking a motive for the shootings, Ehrenberg said.

Several witnesses described the chaos that descended on the mall when the sound of gunfire erupted.

Diego Garces, 25, of Midland Park, N.J., said he was walking through the mall when he heard shots and saw people running. Others were trying to hide. Having been to the mall many times, “I knew where to go to get out but some people didn’t. …. I’m glad to be alive,” he said.

Althea Brown, 26, of Paterson told she was in a clothing store when she saw a man walk by and then heard three shots followed by two more. She said he appeared to be wearing body armor and was wearing a helmet with the visor pulled up.

Several frightened customers sent tweets saying they were escorted from the mall by armed state troopers. One woman wrote that she ran from the mall “screaming.”

The mall is located in Bergen County, about 22 miles southwest of Manhattan.

Courtesy of USA Today

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