Alec Hamilton, Assistant Producer, WNYC News
Alec Hamilton is an Assistant Producer in the WNYC newsroom. She produces Morning Edition and starts her work day very, very early.
Authorities say they do not believe the alleged gunman who killed himself after causing a lockdown at New Jersey's largest shopping mall Monday night wanted to hurt other people.
"It did not appear he entered the mall to actually shoot anyone," Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli told reporters at a news conference early Tuesday. "I say that only because he had ample opportunity to do that and chose not to."
But Molinelli did say that the alleged shooter, 20-year-old Richard Shoop, did appear to want to die, either by shooting himself or by provoking police to shoot him.
Shoop had left an ambiguous note with his family that expressed "that an end is coming," the prosecutor said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America." But Molinelli would not call it a suicide note.
Shoop's brother, Kevin Shoop, told reporters who gathered outside the family's Teaneck, N.J.. home Tuesday morning that his brother never intended to harm anyone but himself. He added that his brother did not tell him of his plans.
People who knew Richard Shoop also expressed shock. Pilar Navarro said she went to Teaneck High School with Shoop.
"He was very handsome, charming, very intelligent," she said. "All of the classes that we had together, he was clearly excelling in. He was a very good kid."
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said the incident pointed to the need for more attention to mental health issues.
At about 9:15 p.m., Monday, chaos erupted at the Garden State Plaza Mall shortly before closing time. Authorities say Shoop walked in dressed in black and fired shots.
Navarro said she was at work at Nordstrom, in the mall, when she heard a gun shot. She said she got out of the mall through a stockroom door used for shipments to the store. By then, she heard police were on their way to the mall.
Joel Castaneda, 18, works at Anne Taylor Loft at the mall. He said he and thirteen others locked themselves in the store for about an hour and a half after hearing four shots fired.
"From the security camera we could see the front door," he said. "We were watching out to see what happened. All of us were really scared at one point, but as soon as we saw there were, like, 200 cops outside the mall, we started to feel a little more safe."
Hundreds of police cars and a SWAT team surrounded Garden State Plaza well into the morning.
Mercedez Hicks, an employee at Uniqlo, one of the stores right near the entrance of the mall, said she heard two shots ring out before she and her managers escorted everyone out.
"All you could see was the guy in passing," Hicks said. "It was a guy with a black leather jacket, black biker helmet and he had a large firearm."
No one besides the shooter has been reported injured.
Shoop's body was found in a back corridor on the lower level of the mall in Paramus early Tuesday morning.
The situation has shocked Teaneck residents, who describe it as a tight-knit community where people tend to know one another. Shoop attended Teaneck High School, and current students there are grappling with the circumstances of his death.
"Two days ago, one of my friends [told] me how they hung out with him," said 15-year-old Virginia Annedundon. "That's someone we saw like every single every day. That's like someone we knew."
With reporting from Reema Khrais.
To hear analysis with The Record Staff Writer Matthew McGrath, click on the audio player above.