Panicked shoppers fled a South Florida mall on Sunday after believing they heard gunshots, prompting police S.W.A.T. teams and federal agents to lock down the commercial center for several hours — but the authorities later said there was no evidence of a shooting.
A man hit his head on a door as he tried to evacuate the building, according to the police, who said the man was being treated at a local hospital. Several other people had minor injuries, the police said.
A spokesman for Delray Medical Center, where the man was taken, said he could not give out information on the patient’s condition.
The scare happened around 3 p.m. at the Town Center at Boca Raton, an upscale shopping mall about an hour north of Miami and right off Interstate 95. It was the latest unfounded report of a shooting at a public place since mass shootings in Odessa, Tex.; Dayton, Ohio; and El Paso, where a gunman killed 22 people at a Walmart in August.
“I think that a lot of this is the unfortunate state that we’re in relative to these critical incidents,” Chief Dan Alexander of the Boca Raton Police Department said during a news conference on Sunday night.
The Boca Raton police initially said on Twitter that the injured man had a gunshot wound, but in a subsequent statement said it was a “possible” gunshot wound.
By nightfall, Chief Alexander characterized the episode as a suspicious incident, saying that investigators had not found a weapon, shell casings or ammunition at the mall.
“These things are always evolving,” Chief Alexander said, adding that a “bang” or loud noise near the food court prompted the panic. “There’s something that happened inside that mall that caused people to get concerned, a lot of people.”
Investigators were poring over security camera footage and interviewing people at the mall, the police said.
The Boca Raton Police Department advised shoppers to shelter in place while officers searched the mall. On social media, shoppers described a chaotic scene inside.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said on Twitter that it was responding to the mall to help the police. Chief Alexander said the A.T.F. had dogs that could detect if fireworks or an explosive device was involved.
Some shoppers said on Twitter that they were holed up inside the mall for several hours.
“We have been stuck inside a store since 3:15 today,” one Twitter user wrote at 5:58 p.m. “What is the time frame to let us out!?!”
The Police Department responded that officers were methodically evacuating and debriefing people to ensure everyone’s safety.
The management offices at the mall were closed on Sunday evening and a representative could not be reached.
At the Kentucky State Fair in August, a group of teenagers set off fireworks, prompting erroneous reports of a gunman.
In Ridgefield, Conn., last week, the police responded to a report of shots fired, but the sound of “shots” was actually caused by cars driving over loose bubble wrap strewn over the road.