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What had people running at the Town Center mall? Well, there was this balloon ...

Police on the scene at the Boca Raton Town Center mall after reports of an active shooter on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019.
Police on the scene at the Boca Raton Town Center mall after reports of an active shooter on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. South Florida Sun Sentinel

The chaos at Town Center mall in Boca Raton on Sunday, when SWAT teams stalked down corridors looking for a possible active shooter, appears to have started with a janitor’s cart, police said Tuesday.

And, a balloon.

Boca Raton police say surveillance video “shows a janitor pushing a cart through the food court area. The garbage cart rolled over and dragged a balloon. The janitor said he popped the balloon and detectives later found a popped balloon on the floor.

“Video footage shows people in the food court visibly react to a loud sound in the area. Other witnesses indicate that they heard a balloon pop.”

But police also say the video appears to show a delay of “a couple of minutes” between the balloon popping and panicky people running from the food court on Sunday afternoon.

They found no evidence of gunfire or criminal activity.

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Boca Raton Chief of Police Dan Alexander stated Sunday night that, despite the 3 p.m. report of shots fired, detectives found no evidence that a gun actually had been fired. The injury requiring a man be taken to Delray Medical Center came from his head hitting a door’s push bar as he skedaddled out of the mall, just off Glades Road and Interstate 95.

A picture making the social media rounds Sunday showing an officer with a man on the ground in the parking lot appears to be of Officer Kenneth Fong and the injured man. He spoke Creole as he gained and lost consciousness, police said, so couldn’t tell police how he got hurt.

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.
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