Shots fired at Westfield Garden State Plaza left shoppers and mall employees in lockdown for hours Monday evening as police searched the premises for the gunman. The suspect was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head at a remote location inside the mall.
“The main motive for what he did…was suicide, whether self-inflicted or suicide-by-cop,” Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said following the incident, according to NJ.com.
The suspect, who officials identified as Richard Shoop, 20, of Teaneck, entered the mall around 9:20 p.m. wearing black body armor and a biker helmet. In an interview with CNN, Molinelli said Shoop proceeded to fire six rounds in various areas of the mall, striking the ceiling, an escalator, an elevator and a storefront.
“He had more than enough opportunity to be able to shoot other people,” the prosecutor told CNN, “but instead shot randomly at different locations.”
Shoop had a history of drug abuse and domestic violence, Molinelli said.
Official vehicles filled Garden State Plaza’s parking lots Monday night as police searched the building, located between Routes 4 and 17 in Paramus. More than 500 officers responded to the shooting, NBC 4 New York reported.
Police presence at the 2 million-square-foot complex continued into Tuesday morning as authorities escorted customers and workers still trapped in stores out of the building.
Clarice Forbes, an employee at Talbots, told the New York Post she was working at the store when the shooting took place.
“We heard the gunshots as we were working, and then I ran to the front of the store, and then the guy walked right in front of the store,” she said.
Forbes said the gunman stared at a coworker at the entrance to the store, fired a shot (without injuring the employee) and then ran in the direction of Nordstrom.
“They were saying that there could be more than one,” she said. “They said that someone may have gotten shot in Nordstrom.”
No one else was injured in the incident, though other false reports circulated immediately following the shooting. In a press conference, Paramus Mayor Richard LaBarbiera initially told reporters that a single shot had been fired in the mall.
The suspect used a .22-caliber assault-style rifle owned by his brother, Kevin Shoop, NJ.com reported. According to Molinelli, Kevin Shoop suspected his brother might be the gunman after hearing word of the shooting and contacted police.
The prosecutor said Shoop left a note before heading to the mall hinting that the “end was coming,” CNN reported.
Police located Richard Shoop’s body several hours after the shooting in a construction area inside the mall.
According to the New York Daily News, Shoop sent a final text message to his girlfriend before ending his life.
It read, “Sorry.”
Garden State Plaza was closed Tuesday as officials investigated the crime scene, but reopened for business on Wednesday.