Photo by Paul Berrin. Photo courtesy of Westfield Century City

Photo by Paul Berrin. Photo courtesy of Westfield Century City

False Alarm Upends Westfield Century City Mall Shopping

A false alarm of a gunman disrupted shopping at Westfield Century City mall in Los Angeles on March 15.

At 12:42 p.m., officers from the Los Angeles Police Department were called to the mall upon receiving a radio call about a gunman. Mall security guards told police that there were no gunshots or shooting victims. However, officers were called to investigate a suspicious package at the mall’s Amazon store.

At 6 p.m., LAPD investigators determined that the suspicious package did not contain a bomb, said a tweet from LAPDHQ, the official account of the Los Angeles Police Department. The mall was reopened for business after the investigation wrapped up.

Brian Chan was shopping at the mall when the rumors of violence were spreading. "A lot of people were running away from the mall. No one knew what was going on," he said. "There were other rumors that there was a fire, that there was a robbery. Nothing happened." Chan said that roads around the mall were closed. Crowds of people were left stranded because their cars were parked in the mall's parking structure. Chan, former designer of the Man & Wolf label, left his car in the mall parking structure, and walked two blocks to meet an Uber ride.

The panic over a rumor of a mall gunman happened after news broke of a mass shooting of 50 Muslim worshippers in New Zealand earlier in the day.

Malls are generally very safe places, said Joseph LaRocca, president of loss prevention and security consultants Retail Partners. A heavy presence of security guards and law enforcement typically scares away criminals.

If one is in a shopping center during a shooting, LaRocca recommended that people follow Department of Homeland Security guidelines to protect themselves.

First, people should run and have an escape route in mind. It is recommended to leave belongings behind and keep hands visible where law enforcement can see them. Another step is to hide in an area out of the active shooter’s view, and block entries to hiding places. DHS guidelines recommend fighting and engaging with the shooter only as a last resort, when one’s life is in imminent danger.