Nightly News   |  November 05, 2013

New Jersey gunfire latest in spate of mall shootings

It can be a huge challenge to protect places like malls that are designed to provide open access, security experts say. NBC’s Ron Allen reports.

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>>> the news late last night ignited a lot of people's worst fears that it was happening again. it was a report of a gunman, shots fired inside another public place . this time a shopping mall in northern new jersey , the largest in the state. and it sparked a huge police turnout. tonight as the busy holiday shopping season is just getting under way, what happened there has people asking justifiably how safe these places are.

>> reporter: the chaos erupted last night just before new jersey's largest mall was about to close, a terrifying scenario, some 300 stores packed with shoppers and employees. a gunman opening fire.

>> i'm just like wow, god was with me because he could have shot me right there.

>> you hear about it in the news, almost every day unfortunately. and you never believe you will be in that situation.

>> reporter: folks flooding twitter, folks saying please just say a prayer, local officers responding, the gunman identified as 25-year-old richard shoop, dressed in black, wearing a motorcycle helmet, firing a semiautomatic rifle , at least six blasts. but authorities say he didn't aim with the intent to kill.

>> he also told people as he passed by, just don't worry, get out of my way.

>> reporter: another deadly blast in an american mall, lately, happening every year. december 2012 , portland, oregon, january 2011 , near phoenix, june 2010 , four killed in miami. security experts say protecting places designed to be open and inviting like a mall is a huge challenge.

>> every person that i see today entering a shopping center or a public venue becomes suspect to me.

>> reporter: near los angeles today, just by coincidence, a training exercise. a simulated response to reports of a shooter stalking a mall.

>> law enforcement fire, store personnel and security, if any type of situation happened everybody that works in the mall knows exactly what to do to keep people safe.

>> reporter: here at the garden state plaza mall , authorities say their training played out, with the evacuations in order. and another community is left to wonder just what happened here, ron allen , nbc news, paramus, new jersey.