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Crime Police evacuating store by store after active shooter forces lockdown of the Lehigh Valley Mall

02:02  20 september  2020
02:02  20 september  2020 Source:   nydailynews.com

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Reports of four shots fired in the lower level of the Lehigh Valley Mall brought a large police response to the Whitehall Township shopping center around 4:50 p.m. Saturday.

a car parked in a parking lot: Pennsylvania State Police converge on the Lehigh Valley Mall after reports of an active shooter Saturday afternoon, Sept. 19, 2020. © Rick Kintzel Pennsylvania State Police converge on the Lehigh Valley Mall after reports of an active shooter Saturday afternoon, Sept. 19, 2020.

Original reports to 911 were for an active shooter at J.C. Penney. Police arrived to find the store in lock down, the doors also locked, according to police radio reports. Dispatchers said the shooter was not in J.C. Penney but that four shell casings were found outside the Modell’s Sporting Goods store on the mall’s lower level.

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Around 5:05 p.m., police were investigating if a shooter was inside the Hollister store, dispatchers said.

At 5:35 p.m., a 911 caller told police of a possible shooter in the Claire’s store on the second level.

Consistently, workers and shoppers said they heard at several shots. One shopper who ran out of the mall said he heard four shots by J.C. Penney, after which chaos ensued, with people running for the exits or for shelter.

Ashley Giammona was on the second floor, waiting to get inside Bath and Body Works with her husband when she heard the shots.

“I will never forget the second of silence that happened after the shots, as we processed what we heard,” she said. “Then everyone started screaming."”My husband slid behind a jewelry display in middle of mall and I army-crawled to him."

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Steve Royer, of Allentown, was walking out of J.C. Penney when he heard four or five gunshots. “It sounded like they were right next to me,” he said. All around him were racing toward the exits.

“Everyone on all levels started running,” said Anjelica Williams, who works at the Cinnabon on the lower level. “It was a massive horde.”

Williams didn’t hear the shots, but a co-worker on break did. She said they followed the mall’s instructions to lock down and when police arrived, they were instructed to leave.

Less than an hour after the shots were fired, Williams was safety outside the mall.

“I came home to visit my parents today and went to the Lehigh Valley Mall. Next thing you know I hear 4 gun shots and people screaming and running," a shopper tweeted. "This was so [expletive] traumatizing and I’m glad I didn’t die today.”

“Was over by the stairs by the JC Penney and heard 4 loud bangs... I never ran so fast in my life,” tweeted another.

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There were no reports of injuries in that hour. Lehigh Valley Hospital and St. Luke’s University Hospital were put on alert, with a dispatcher saying, “unknown if there are any patients.”

About three dozen police cars, including an armored vehicle, were on scene, from Whitehall, Allentown, State Police, and surrounding communities. Four ambulances also were on the premises.

Police apparently were going from store to store, helping employees leave the building.

Photo journalist Rick Kintzel contributed to this report.

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