Mall patrons evacuated from Dolphin Mall with their hands up
Sounds of Dolphin Mall, Sunday, 11 a.m.:
Marvin Gaye's “Can I Get A Witness” over the mall-wide public address. Thumps of more current hits' bass lines from places like Calvin Klein Accessories and MiaMondi. The creaks of gates as businesses opened 10 hours after screaming claims of shots fired abruptly ended Saturday night shopping.
Miami-Dade police sent out an all-clear just before 2 a.m. Sunday after a search of the mall by the Special Response Team and K-9 Units turned up no shooters and nobody shot. According to Miami-Dade police, the scare started around 9 p.m. A Sweetwater officer had seen a crowd hustling to mall exits, screaming about shots being fired.
Shoppers told the Miami Herald of fleeing in reaction to either a loud noise or other people running. Several nearby police agencies set up a perimeter while clearing the mall, which was scheduled to close at 9:30 p.m.
Miami-Dade police are still investigating.
So, Sunday morning found tour buses dropping off families ready to fill Smarte Cartes, as usual. And, an extended family posed for a group shot in front of one of the entrances, as usual.
At 11 a.m., consumers already milled about the aisles at Ross Dress for Less, which opened its outside doors at 8:30 a.m. People in healthy lines at Starbucks and the money exchange booth in front of Starbucks fueled up for mass bargain hunting.
Francina Abreu’s teenage son, Emil Rania, had been at the mall with friends not long before the tumult. While harboring the normal parental “What if?” thoughts, Abreu didn't hesitate to come to Dolphin Mall Sunday with Emil and Emil's younger brother Johan Santamban .
“We cannot live in fear,” said Abreu, who lives in Doral. “Something like that can happen at any place...”
“At any time...” Johan said.
“...and we cannot stop living,” Abreu said. “So ask God to protect us and that's all. But we cannot live in fear. That’s not acceptable.”
Dolphin Mall is under lockdown because of reports of a shooting. Miami-Dade police said that, despite earlier reports, they could not confirm if shots were fired.
Several law enforcement sources say they found nothing at the scene — no one injured, no shooter or bullets.
Andrea Piccardo was watching the movie Atomic Blonde inside the mall’s movie theater when an emergency message came over the PA system.
She and her friend starting running and described the situation as chaotic.
“I just sort of figured it might be a shooter,” Piccardo said. “If people are running that fast there must be someone right behind us.”
Piccardo said she never actually saw the gunman herself but rushed for the exits amid a crowd of people who abandoned strollers and bags as they ran.
She said traffic was mostly at a standstill as she left the parking lot at the mall located at 11401 NW 12th St.
Miami-Dade police has taken over the investigation from the Sweetwater police department. The Florida Highway Patrol and the City of Doral Police Department were on the scene providing assistance as well. Because it is an active investigation, police are asking people to avoid the area.
Shoppers in and around the area had indicated on social media that a shooting had apparently taken place near Bass Pro Shops, but no one was saying that they saw a shooter or heard shots.
Shoppers left the mall with their hands raised up and others carrying their bags and stood outside the various entrances to the mall.
Alois Mangwende, a tourist from London, said he was in the Polo Ralph Lauren store when he noticed the staff was closing the doors. He noticed other stores doing the same and then people starting leaving the mall in waves.
“As we were walking to the [parking garage] everyone just started running,” Mangwende said.
He said that after about 15 or 20 minutes things seemed calm and he made his way outside the mall.
“No one really knew if it was a gunshot or if a bomb went off,” Mangwende said. “This wasn’t in my thought process when I came to Miami.”
Caroline Madera, 36, of Kendall was back-to-school shopping at the Burlington store with her two daughters when she saw people running.
“People were running from the mall into the store. … we were able to get out before they locked us in,” she said.