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(NECN: Julie Loncich, Burlington, Mass.) - Just before 10:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, Burlington Police say five witnesses reported what they thought was a man with a gun walking into the Nordstrom's restroom. Mall security immediately told employees and shoppers to evacuate the building.
"Needless to say we were nervous. We were frightened. We had to change our plans obviously," said shopper Tom DeFreitas.
For more than and hour, 40 officers from Burlington Police, State Police and neighboring communities swept the mall, looking for the alleged gunman and questioning suspects.
Meantime, at the nearby Lahey Clinic, an employee heard the news reports and identified himself as the man in question. He promptly notified Burlington Police he was their person of interest, but that the alleged weapon was merely an umbrella.
"It's not against the law to carry an umbrella. This fellow didn't do anything wrong," said Burlington Police Chief Michael Kent.
Relieved shoppers and employees were allowed back in the mall around 12:30 p.m.
"Very relieved. I'm sure the person who turned in, who saw what she thought she was, is very upset right now and I feel bad for the person holding an umbrella and then finding out that he has to turn himself in, said shopper Doris Paquin.
"I think it's the type of world we live in that you really have to take everything serious," said mall employee Dotti Gerrior.
Raw video from the scene.
Statement from Lahey Clinic:
"A Lahey Clinic employee carrying an umbrella in his backpack was unfortunately mistaken for a gunman at the Burlington Mall this morning.
Upon arrival at work, the employee heard the description of the alleged person carrying a rifle on the news and immediately called the Burlington Police. He told them he had been at the mall and fit the description. The police responded and confirmed that he was the person and his umbrella was mistaken for a gun.
The Lahey employee is pleased he took appropriate action and contacted the police, however he feels terrible about the situation. He asks that people and the media please respect his privacy at this time."