Recalling the moments he heard of a possible shooter inside a Metrotown mall on Friday afternoon, Thanasaki Chionidis says the experience was traumatic.
"I was pretty scared for my life," he told CBC Vancouver.
"I distinctly started to hear someone saying, 'get down' … and other people saying, 'run, there's a shooter, run.""
Police were called to Metropolis at Metrotown and the nearby SkyTrain station in Burnaby around 3 p.m. after reports of possible shots fired in the mall and an alleged bomb threat at the train station — both of which were evacuated for the police investigation.
"It was just a chaotic scene," he said. "People were just beside themselves. I've never seen something like this before."
Around three hours later, police said the threat that caused the evacuations was unfounded and no evidence of an alleged bomb or shots fired were discovered.
RCMP 'quite certain' it was an incident of swatting
Cpl. Mike Kalanj, media relations officer for Burnaby RCMP, said police are "quite certain" it was an incident of swatting — where fake emergency calls are made to provoke a large response from police.
"[Swatting is] used sometimes to distract [the police], and sometimes, which we believe in this case, it was just used for someone to have fun in a bad way," he said.
Kalanj says swatting is considered public mischief and it puts a dent in police resources since false reports still need to be attended to.
"Anytime you have police going to something they don't need to, there's always a risk of something else getting missed. If we're all up at Metrotown and something else is happening in Northside Burnaby and we can't send as many members as we should, that puts lives in danger. That puts people in danger, not to mention the police," he said.
'It's not funny in the least'
Chionidis says though he now knows there was no threat that Friday afternoon, the fear he felt was real.
"It takes a real sick person to do something like that. It's not funny in the least," he said.
"It just caused so much unnecessary commotion and chaos. People were actually terrified. People were crying. People were passing out."
The RCMP says the investigation is still ongoing and police are also looking for possible links between this incident and another unfounded bomb threat at an elementary school in Port Moody.