LAPD officers use a robot at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles after the shopping… (Christina House / For The…)
The evacuation announcement came over the loudspeaker at the Beverly Center in the early afternoon — a muffled voice telling shoppers that this was not a drill, everyone needed to leave the mall immediately.
Christina Taylor, a high school junior from Florida, had been browsing the racks at Bloomingdale's with her mom—their first stop after arriving in L.A. — when her mom grabbed her arm to get her attention. The two women couldn’t make out exactly what the announcer had said, but around them, workers in the store began panicking and running, Christina said.
With the recent shooting in Newtown, Conn., fresh on their minds, Christina and her mother rushed toward the escalators.
“I looked into the mall, and everyone was running toward the exit, but no one knew what was going on. Someone said it was fire, someone said it was a person with a gun,” Christina said. As hundreds of shoppers streamed down the escalators into the street outside, “It was chaotic, crazy,” she said. “I was worried for a lot of the kids there.”
The cause, it turned out, was a suspicious package that a shopper reported had been placed in his car in the Beverly Center parking lot without his knowledge. The man alerted police about the package around noon, and the Los Angeles Police Department dispatched the bomb squad, which was still on scene about 4 p.m.
It was unclear exactly what time the evacuation began, but several shoppers said they heard the announcement shortly before 1 p.m.
LAPD spokeswoman Norma Eisenman said the call from the shopper about the suspicious package came in at noon, and officers were still in the process of evacuating the building shortly before 1:40 p.m. The car was parked in the mall’s multi-level garage, which was sealed off with yellow caution tape.
“The situation has not been rendered safe,” Eisenman said. Shortly before 4 p.m., she said there were no new updates.
For several hours after the evacuation, hundreds of shoppers were stranded outside the mall unable to return to their cars in the parking garage.
Katelyn Gentry, 23, an employee at a hair care store in the mall, said Beverly Center officials did a safety drill just a few weeks ago, so employees knew to meet up for roll call across the street in a drugstore parking lot.
In the late afternoon, while many shoppers had left the area, employees were still waiting for word on whether they would be sent home or allowed to return.
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