911 calls released in Garden State Plaza Mall gunman scare

Jim Dolan reports from Paramus.
November 6, 2013 8:31:31 PM PST
Officials have released 911 calls made by people inside the Garden State Plaza when a gunman started firing his weapon.

Among those holed up inside, was Courtney Coleman, and she definitely wanted to get out, but listen to what she told the 911 dispatcher.

"I'm not so worried about the gunman, but all of those cops out the door. Is there any way that you could reach one of the them and have them come in and get me?" Coleman said in her 911 call.

"I was worried about getting shot," Coleman said, "I didn't want them to think that, there was glass everywhere, it was dark just like this. I didn't know if they would have thought I was the shooter or who I was."

And when police finally did call in to Courtney to get her to safety, it was terrifying.

"As soon as I get to like, right here, they all line up on the glass pointing the guns like, 'put your hands up, please put your hands up.' So, I got extremely scared and I thought like I'm going down, it's a wrap for me, I'm going to die now," Coleman said.

Another call was made by a woman hiding in the bathroom.

Operator: 911.

Caller: Someone's shooting at Garden State Plaza.

Operator: I can't hear you, what?

Caller: Someone is shooting up Garden State Plaza right now.

Operator: Someone is shooting?

Caller: Someone is shooting up Garden State Plaza right now and I'm in the bathroom (inaudible).

Operator: OK, stay on the phone with me sweetheart. How many people are in the bathroom with you?

Caller: There's three.

Operator: Are they in your store?

Caller: Yes.

This next call was made by an employee holed up in her store's office.

Operator: 911 where is your emergency?

Caller: Garden State Plaza.

Operator: Yes.

Caller: I'm at the Garden State Plaza mall where there's been a shooting.

Operator: Yes.

Caller: And I'm in, I work here, I'm inside the store inside the office by myself, but I'm scared and I want to get out of the mall. I was waiting for two other employees to come because there's been a shooting inside the mall and they haven't come to the store yet, and I'm scared and I want to leave, out.

The Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus had been closed since Monday after 20-year-old Richard Shoop sent thousands fleeing for their lives before turning the gun on himself.

Retailers and their employees were back at 6 a.m. to get the stores ready for customers, who were able to enter at 10 a.m.

Meanwhile, more than 200 people held a vigil for the gunman on Tuesday night.

Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli says Shoop, of Teaneck, killed himself with the same weapon he used at the mall and had left a note with his family suggesting he would harm himself.

No other injuries were reported.


News of Shoop's suicide stunned friends and relatives. As recently as last week, Shoop had spoken about a potential new job and seemed especially happy about it, according to a woman who said she had known him since they were little.

"He told me that he was going to get a new job at this TV place and he was going to make good money," Madison Barbarini said. "He told me that he was doing really well and it seemed like he was really happy. Things just don't add up. Why would he do this? It doesn't make sense."

The friend she knew "honestly would never hurt a fly," Barbarini added.

The suspect's brother, Kevin Shoop, told reporters outside their home on a quiet suburban block in Teaneck that his brother was "a great person" who was liked by friends and family and gave no advance warning about what he intended to do.

"He just sadly decided to make an act of - an act of, I guess, self-indulgence - by taking his own life publicly," Kevin Shoop said. "And it's a tragedy to us all. And we're going to now handle matters and deal with them."

Dod Geges, the owner of a pizzeria in Teaneck where Shoop worked for several years, said Shoop didn't show violent tendencies and "was always sad" when he heard about shootings on TV.

Shoop left an ambiguous note with his family that raised concern, however. Molinelli, the prosecutor, would not call it a suicide note, but he said it did "express that an end is coming. It could have been prison. ... It could have been what he did last night. It gave his family reason to reach out to us."

Gov. Chris Christie called the shooting a wake-up call for lawmakers to focus on mental health issues as part of a comprehensive effort to reduce gun violence.

"Obviously that young man went there to end his own life. We may not be that lucky next time," Christie said. "We need to get to the root causes of what drives a young man like that to drive to Garden State Plaza in that condition."

It is not known whether Shoop had any mental health problems. Authorities said he had a known drug problem.

Chaos erupted shortly before the mall's 9:30 p.m. closing time Monday when authorities said a man dressed in black and wearing a motorcycle helmet fired six shots. Molinelli said the gun, which was modified to look like an AK-47 assault rifle, belonged to Richard Shoop's brother, who owned it legally and did not give the shooter permission to take it.

At the mall Monday night, witnesses said the sound of gunfire sent customers and employees rushing hysterically for the exits and hiding places at the mall, which remained closed Tuesday. Officials said the mall would reopen Wednesday morning.

Hundreds of law enforcement officers converged on the 2.2 million-square-foot mall, which was put on lockdown. New Jersey State Police landed a helicopter in the parking lot and SWAT teams with dogs initially went through the mall and started evacuating people.

Shoop's body was discovered around 3:20 a.m. Tuesday in a back corridor, deep within a lower level of the mall in an area not accessible to the public, Paramus Police Chief Kenneth Ehrenberg said. Shoop did not work at the mall, he said, and investigators were still trying to determine why he went there.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)