It’s been a year since terrified shoppers rushed out of Crabtree Valley Mall after hearing what many people thought were gunshots. Investigators still haven’t figured out what caused the loud noise.
About 300 people called 911 on Aug. 13, 2016, many reporting they had heard multiple gunshots ring out near the food court around 2:30 p.m. The Raleigh mall was locked down, and shoppers were escorted across the street, where they waited more than three hours before they were allowed to return to their cars.
Raleigh police said they found no evidence of gunfire and that after interviewing witnesses and reviewing surveillance camera footage they couldn’t explain what caused the noise. No one with gunshot wounds was located, and no suspects were arrested.
Police sent an audio recording of the noise to the FBI and are still waiting for the results of an analysis, said police spokeswoman Laura Hourigan.
“After performing a comprehensive follow-up investigation that found no explanation for the loud noise, the Raleigh Police Department is awaiting the FBI’s analysis of the viable recording,” Hourigan said in an email Friday.
Shelley Lynch, a spokeswoman for the FBI office in Charlotte, said Friday she is trying to determine the status of the analysis.
“We can never give a specific timeline to when tests are complete,” she said. “It depends on a variety of factors, including priority of pending cases, active scenes, both federal and state investigations.”
That Saturday afternoon, the noise sent shoppers scrambling for the mall’s exits, and police said eight people were transported to hospitals for treatment of minor injuries suffered in the chaotic rush.
Glenwood Avenue near the mall was closed to traffic in both directions for hours, and the mall remained closed throughout the evening.
Some people’s fears were already heightened after mass shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., and Orlando, Fla.
But in the past 12 months, the initial fear some shoppers felt that day has turned into confusion and frustration. Was the sound gunshots? If not, then what was it?
Amy Cooper of Raleigh was at Victoria’s Secret with her sister that day. They didn’t hear the noise, but a man ran into the store and said someone was shooting a gun. Along with several other shoppers, Cooper and her sister stayed behind the checkout counter and waited for police to escort them out.
“You felt kind of trapped being in the mall,” said Cooper, 29. “We just tried to hide.”
Cooper said she was scared that day, but her fear hasn’t kept her from returning to the mall.
“I actually really like Crabtree, and I live close by,” she said. “I don’t have a lot of hesitations about going back.”
But Cooper said the experience has changed the way she thinks about large crowds. She pays attention to where the nearest exits are located, and she thinks about what she would do in an emergency.
Carrie Salisbury wasn’t ready to return to Crabtree right away after she and her husband and their two children, now 11 and 14, waited in the back room of the Pandora jewelry store until police arrived that day. They were told to put their hands on their heads and walk outside.
“The next few months, I was definitely more cautious and hesitant to go to the mall,” said Salisbury, 44, of Raleigh.
Salisbury said she heard the noise, and she initially thought it was a gunshot. A year later, she thinks something large, like a table, might have fallen or been dropped.
Cooper also thinks it might have been a dropped item, or maybe a child’s toy.
“The whole thing is very mysterious,” she said. “I’m very surprised they didn’t find out.”