JERSEY CITY — Two people were shot at a New Jersey mall Friday night, authorities say.
Scott Fallon, a reporter for NorthJersey.com and the USA TODAY Network, had taken the day off and was at the Newport Centre mall in Jersey City with his wife, Dawn, and daughter, Emma, when the shooting occurred at around 6 p.m.
To celebrate Emma’s 6th birthday, the family had attended a screening of “A Dog’s Way Home” in the movie theater, which shares space with the food court on the mall’s third level, when he heard gunfire.
“I heard a thump,” he said. “It may have been just one shot. I heard screaming and then an avalanche of people started running from the food court.”
Fallon had been on his way to the men’s room.
“I immediately turned and ran like hell back to where Dawn and Emma were,” he said. “I said, ‘There’s been a shooting.’ I grabbed Emma, held her in my arms and we ran through some exit doors into a hallway behind the theaters.”
They huddled there with a scared Swedish tourist named Ali who had become separated from his friends in the panic that erupted after the shooting, Fallon said, called the police and 911 and waited for authorities to arrive.
After about 20 minutes, he said, he heard footsteps and the sounds from police radios in a service stairwell off the hallway.
“I knew it was the police, but I was afraid,” he said. “I didn’t want to startle them. I told Ali, ‘Get your hands up.’ I told Dawn to move out of the shadow where she was holding Emma at the time. ‘Move into the light.’ I took my hands out and I yelled through the door, ‘There’s civilians here!’ and they said, ‘Open the door.’
“I opened the door slowly,” he said. “They had their guns drawn. They came in, they knew we weren’t a threat, and they escorted us down the stairwell with their guns drawn.”
They emerged into the frigid January cold with a large crowd of people who also had been evacuated from the mall.
“People were on their cellphones,” he said. “I thought people would be more panicked. I thought people wouldn’t be around the entrance. I wanted to get as far away as possible from there. I’m actually still feeling uneasy being a block or two away.”
Jersey City police referred questions to spokeswoman Ashley Manz. A message left for Manz was not immediately returned. A message left for a Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman was also not returned.
Adnane Jaballah of Jersey City said he heard the shooting.
“From nowhere we start hearing shots,” Jaballah said. “It was like four or five shots. Everybody go down and people surrounding everywhere, everybody throwing everything.”
Video posted to social media shows people rushing out of the door of the mall near the Zinburger.
The mall is a three-level, 1.2 million square-foot building near the PATH station that attracts 13 million shoppers annually, according to its website.