Meriden police are still investigating the unfounded reports of a shooting at the Westfield-Meriden Mall on Thursday night.
Police still want to talk with the woman who alerted a store employee someone was shooting and investigators are trying to figure out if the shopper may have mistaken an electrical malfunction, confirmed by Eversource, for the sound of gunshots.
“A gear or switch malfunction that can cause loud banging when that does malfunction,” Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpati said. “There is uncertainty at this point as to whether they are directly related.”
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Westfield Meriden released a statement to NBC Connecticut Friday afternoon saying:
"The safety of customers, employees and property is always a top priority for Westfield. Out of an abundance of caution following the notification of a possible gunshots heard on property yesterday evening, Westfield Meriden fully cooperated with local law enforcement to implement precautionary measures in investigating this report, which has since been confirmed as unfounded. We thank local law enforcement and city officials for their cooperation, and recommend that you contact the Meriden Police Department to receive the most current and accurate information regarding this incident."
While, the mall in Meriden reopened Friday morning, Kristal Martinez said she is very concerned about this false alarm close to her home.
“I used to go there with my kids,” she said. “I don’t even want to go there anymore.”
Martinez said a friend of hers was shopping when the panic started to spread inside the mall and on social media.
“She said everybody was running, screaming, it was crazy,” Martinez said.
A Westfield-Meriden spokesperson said the mall’s security includes uniformed and plain clothed security, foot and vehicle patrols, electronic surveillance and their staff works with local and regional law enforcement.
“This isn’t solely something that can happen in Orlando, this isn’t solely something that can happen in Newtown,” Mayor Scarpati said. “This can happen anywhere.”
The mayor says he is satisfied with the response from his city’s first responders.
“Meriden was ready,” he said.
“Meriden is well equipped and well trained to handle something like this,” adding the SWAT team responded right away as they wrapped up a training exercise.
From evacuation drills to active shooter training exercises, preparing for a worst case scenario is now a top of mind issue for both first responders and mall officials.
“This is a ballistic vest, it’s not quite to the level a police officer would use,” said West Hartford Assistant Fire Chief Richard Winn, showing his department’s new investment.
In the event of an active shooter at a public place or Westfarms Mall, West Hartford firefighters will soon have an added layer of protection.
“We take a secondary role because this is a police incident, but we do assist them,” Asst. Chief Winn said. “We stand back and wait for them to secure an area for us where we can set up a medical triage area.”
Karli Gilbertson-Spinella from Chester said she is worried about another mass shooting happening close to home.
“I’ve actually written to our legislature about this issue,” she said, “The fact guns are so easily available and I have to worry about my kids going to the movies, going to the mall.”
Winn said recently he witnessed Westfarms run through an evacuation drill.
“Quite honestly,” he said. “They did a pretty good job of evacuating the mall that morning.”
Agencies from West Hartford and Farmington train together and would both respond to an emergency at Westfarms because the mall sits on the town line.
“They learn the back corridors and the layout of the mall,” Winn said. "So, they’re pretty familiar with it, especially the companies that are assigned over there.”