A car fire caused tires to explode at about 8 p.m. Saturday at the Garden State Plaza in Paramus.
As smoke from that fire entered the store, workers told customers to leave. The moving crowd knocked over a large metal display stanchion on the store's main level, causing noises that many confused for gunshots.
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Another display setup fell moments later as the frightened crowd rushed out of the store. Authorities say several mall patrons suffered minor injuries during the exodus.
Shoppers hid in restrooms as police swarmed the area. 70 percent of stores were evacuated, and 30 percent of the mall was on lockdown. Police went through the mall store by store to get people out.
Twenty-six-year-old Brittany Berdy, of Wyckoff, says she was eating dinner at a restaurant at the mall when she went outside and saw the tires explode on a car. She said the tire explosion sounded like gunshots.
Law enforcement from across the region descended on the mall as panicked shoppers tried to leave and hide, not knowing what was happening. Investigators still do not know what happened to cause the car to catch on fire, but the car's owner told Eyewitness News that she recently had work done on the vehicle.
The only injuries that were reported were a couple of people who were trying to run out of the mall.
The mall's restaurants and theater were open Sunday. Its shops are regularly closed Sunday.
In November, a 20-year-old Richard Shoop from Teaneck fired shots inside the mall, terrifying shoppers and employees before killing himself.
Some information from the Associated Press.