Last night at approximately 9:20 p.m., Richard Shoop, age 20, entered Garden State Mall in New Jersey with a modified AK-47 rifle and opened fire. According to witnesses, the gunman, who was dressed in black and wearing a motorcycle helmet, began sporadically shooting; hitting an elevator, an escalator, a storefront, and the ceiling – without injuring anyone at the mall. In the mayhem, Shoop managed to disappear from view. It was later uncovered that the Garden State Mall gunman killed himself in a back room at the far end of the Westfield section of the plaza. Authorities say they found Shoop’s body at 3:20 a.m. He had shot himself in the head. Shoop was from Teaneck, NJ, and acted alone, authorities said.
Two hundred police cars had arrived on the scene as startled shoppers ran for their lives out of the mall and the massive hunt for the gunman ensued. According to Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli, several thousand people were in the mall as the shopping plaza prepared to close for the night. Many remained inside as authorities locked down the center in search of the gunman.
A Garden State Mall employee was quoted as saying, “Everyone was running to wherever they could. It was almost like when you’re watching a horror movie and the killer is walking slowly, that’s what it seemed like.” “He was wearing all black.” said Allie Cozic, “It almost looked like body armor of some kind. As soon as I saw the gun, I just turned and ran.” She said of the gunman who later killed himself. Another employee, Eddie Kahmann, said “I heard six or seven gunshots. There was just people running like crazy, so I quickly just closed my doors, ran to the back, turned off all the lights, music and everything, just to stay hidden.”
The gunman left a note, Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli told reporters. “We know that his intent was either suicide or to do something that would cause police to shoot him, which we call ‘suicide by cop’. He had more than enough opportunity to be able to shoot other people, including a group adjacent to him, but he didn’t,” Molinelli said, “Instead, he shot randomly at different locations.” According to the prosecutor, it was still unclear why the gunman did this. Nevertheless, “Shoop used narcotic drugs and sold drugs as well.” Molinelli said, “The gunman left behind a note referring to the idea that the ‘end was coming.’” And added: “That could mean going to jail, getting arrested, or it could mean suicide.”
Molinelli told reporters that a call to the authorities was made by Shoop’s brother after he heard about the shooting. He thought Shoop might be the gunman. “Police did not confirm the shooter’s identity, until they found his body,” he added. “Shoop stole the rifle from his brother.” According to authorities, the rifle proved lawfully registered to the owner, Shoop’s brother.
According to reports, the scene inside the 2-million square foot mall was pure terror and panic, and as the frantic search for the gunman took over, officials did not know whether the shooter had left the building or was still inside. Even after uncovering Shoop’s body, Molinelli said that “fear” still lingered in the mall and that “More than 100 shoppers were still hiding inside stores early Tuesday morning, unsure of whether they could safely come out. Officers worked to evacuate each store.”
Local law enforcement knew the 20-year-old gunman. “He had a history of drug use and abuse,” Molinelli said. “He at least thought that he was reaching a point where there was no recourse but to take his own life.”
Richard Shoop worked at Victor’s Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant in Teaneck for about a year, according to the owner, Dodd Geges. The owner told reporters that Shoop was a “trustworthy worker, a nice, quiet person, but that something seemed off in the last two weeks and he wasn’t his usual self at the pizza shop.” According to friends and neighbors of Shoop, the tragic event has shocked everyone because Shoop was, liked and always working and they saw no signs of trouble.
Fortunately, no one else was hurt, but this horrifying event lends support to the popular slogan: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”, as we saw of the Garden State Mall gunman that killed himself.
By Christina L. Ibbotson