LONG ISLAND, N.Y. (WPVI) -- Pandemonium erupted Tuesday at a Long Island mall filled with holiday shoppers when an attempted robbery led to gunfire, sending crowds of people running and screaming and leaving a mall employee in serious condition with a gunshot wound, authorities said. A suspect was in custody.
Acting Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said the suspect entered the Rolex dealer at the Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City at around 1 p.m. A struggle with store security ensued, and a gun went off. It's unclear to whom the gun belonged, but police said the robbery suspect was carrying a handgun.
The single shot went into the main concourse area of the mall, hitting a 67-year-old employee, who was taken to the hospital.
The shooting happened on a busy afternoon just three days before Christmas. Although police said the mall was never officially evacuated, thousands fled in the minutes after the shooting, clogging nearby access roads for several hours.
Shopper Katie Brewer told News 12 Long Island that people were terrified and there was confusion over whether there was a shooter in the mall. She said she was shaken up and planned to get home as soon as she could.
Cellphone video obtained by WNBC-TV showed chairs in the food court overturned and food strewn on the floor.
"Why do I need to risk my life to be in the mall?" Brewer said. "I might as well shop online."
Jessica Julig, of Queens, said she was Christmas shopping at the mall when employees suddenly told her to stay down and move to the back of the store.
"I was shaking," she said. "People were screaming and then I started to feel the whole mall shake."
She said she looked out and "saw people running everywhere."
She said shoppers weren't told what had happened but were told to take cover and then evacuate.
"They took us to the back and then out a service entrance," she said.
Outside, she said she saw people screaming and crying.
"I'm terrified," Julig said. "I just can't stop shaking. ... There were so many little kids in there. Everything was fine. We had been shopping all morning."
The robbery suspect was not immediately identified by police, who said they believe he acted alone.
Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.
Worker shot in NY mall outside Rolex dealer; 1 in custody