PARAMUS, N.J. - A 20-year-old gunman intent on dying fired multiple shots inside New Jersey's largest shopping mall, trapping hundreds of customers and employees for hours as police scoured stores for the shooter, who was found dead of a self-inflicted wound, authorities said. There were no other injuries.
Investigators don't believe the gunman, identified as 20-year-old Richard Shoop, intended to shoot anyone when he began firing at the ceiling and elsewhere Thursday at the Garden State Plaza on Monday night shortly before the mall's closing time, Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said.
"We think he went in with the intent that he was not going to come out alive," Molinelli said.
He said Shoop was known to authorities and had had a problem with drugs, but he did not elaborate.
The prosecutor said Shoop left an ambiguous note with his family. While Molinelli would not call it a suicide note, he said it did "express that an end is coming. It could have been prison. ... It could have been what he did last night. It gave his family reason to reach out to us."
The suspect's brother, Kevin Shoop told reporters outside their home that he had no advance warning about what Richard intended to do.
"He just sadly decided to make an act of — an act of, I guess, self-indulgence — by taking his own life publicly," Kevin Shoop said. "And it's a tragedy to us all. And we're going to now handle matters and deal with them."
Chaos erupted shortly before the mall's 9:30 p.m. closing time when authorities said a man dressed in black and wearing a motorcycle helmet fired six shots. Molinelli said the gun, which was modified to look like an AK-47 assault rifle, belonged to Richard Shoop's brother, who owned it legally and did not give the shooter permission to take it.
Shoop's body was discovered around 3:20 a.m. Tuesday in a back corridor of the mall, deep within a lower level, in an area that is not accessible to the public, Paramus police Chief Kenneth Ehrenberg said. Shoop did not work at the mall, he said, and investigators were still trying to determine why he went there.
Hundreds of law enforcement officers converged on the 2.2 million-square-foot mall, which was put on lockdown. New Jersey State Police landed a helicopter in the parking lot and elite teams initially went through the mall and started evacuating people.
The mall, which has more than 270 stores, is located about 15 miles (24 kilometres) northwest of Manhattan.
Associated Press writers Meghan Barr in Teaneck, New Jersey, Denise Lavoie in Boston and Mark Scolforo in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York City contributed to this report.