UPDATE: Fireworks set off inside Hamilton Place Mall, 3 injured trying to escape
Chattanooga police say a group teenagers tried to create a distraction from shoplifting, by setting off fireworks inside Hamilton Place Mall Monday.
Chattanooga police say a call of shots fired at Hamilton Place Mall turned out to be fireworks set off by teenagers Monday.
It happened around 4:40 p.m.
Police say several callers reported shots being fired at the mall; however, Rob Simmons with the Chattanooga Police Department says officers arrived at the scene and found that fireworks were set off by a group of teenagers.
At 4:45pm, firecrackers were discharged inside the mall. Police are investigating but we can confirm it was not an active shooter situation.— Hamilton Place (@HamiltonPlaceTN) December 26, 2016
A spokesperson for Hamilton Place Mall released the following statement:
"At approximately 4:45pm today someone threw firecrackers inside one of our retailers. It caused a minor disturbance with merchants shutting gates, as a precautionary measure. Everything is safe."
Police say they now believe the teens were trying to create a distraction with the fireworks in an attempt to cover up a shoplifting incident.
Several shoppers received minor injuries from being pushed down by the rush of other shoppers trying to leave the mall. Hamilton County EMS responded and treated the injured.
"I was in Dillard's minding my own business and there's all these people that come charging through and you don't know what's happening so that was a scary situation for sure," said shopper Jim Tanner.
Tanner went back inside and took several photos showing armed police officers searching the store "Pink," and a once-crowded food court empty.
"Crazy just to see everything dumped over and the food court completely empty and police running around with their guns out," Tanner said.
Officer Simmons says police have descriptions of the teens involved through surveillance cameras at the mall. Simmons says the teens will be held accountable for their actions.
The investigation is ongoing.
If you have any information about this incident, call Chattanooga police at 423-698-2525.
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