Chaos ensued at the Memorial City Mall in Houston, Texas, this weekend when a masked man jumped on a table in the food court and proclaimed he was going to kill himself, setting off a stampede of hundreds of panicked people fleeing from the mall.
Constable Ted Heap of the Houston Police Department said the incident took place Sunday around 3:15 p.m. and the suspect was a white male in his late teens or early twenties.
Heap told reporters the suspect “put on what appears to be a half mask … kind of a red mask, came down the escalators, came down to the food court, and then at a slow trot went through the food court. About halfway through the food court he jumped up on a table and declared that he was going to kill himself.”
“He had something in a bag,” Heap continued. “At that point he had thrown down the bag. Of course, at this point we had chaos. People started fleeing.”
The suspect, according to the police, allegedly made his way through the south entrance of the mall toward a block of apartment complexes.
A 16-year old boy and his mother were treated for ankle and leg injuries after the chaos, officials said.
Police indicated the suspect remains at large and could face possible charges of making terroristic threats.
"We don't take this type of thing lightly," said Houston Police Assistant Chief Sheryl Victorian.
“We had an explosive detection dog ... come out and check the evidence that the suspect dropped on the scene. In the end there was no evidence of an explosive device … we have not determined exactly what that item is,” Victorian continued.
This is not the first incident of the public panicking over a possible threat in the aftermath of the El Paso and Dayton shootings.
Just last week thousands of people who were crowded into a packed Times Square fled in panic after a motorcycle backfired and caused fears over a possible active shooter.
Heap suggested that it was challenging for law enforcement to deal with these kinds of incidents.
“Our job is to keep people safe and to neutralize any threat. We’ve got uniforms from a lot of different agencies -- federal agencies, state, local agencies, county, city -- so there’s a lot of police officers involved here who have joined together to try to be sure that this is a safe scene,” Heap said.