Fear at mall after unfounded reports: ‘Tyson’s mall at the movie theater, there’s a shooter’

Moviegoers were watching a showing of “Godzilla” at Tysons Corner Center last Saturday, when gunfire-like popping sounds rang out. The chaos that followed is captured vividly in 911 calls released by Fairfax County police Thursday.

People ran out of the complex, hid in bathrooms and desperately called authorities, fearing the worst in an era of mass shootings: A gunman loose in the theater.

Those initial concerns turned out to be unfounded — police said the popping sounds were actually caused by two soda bottle “chemical” devices placed near the entrances of two of the movie theaters. No one was injured.

Nevertheless, the fear on the calls is real and demonstrates how quickly dangerous misinformation can spread.

“There is a gunshot, please please!” one caller pleads with a dispatcher, nearly in tears. Another yells: “You’ve got to send someone to Tysons!”

A third caller says she watched the scene unfold. She ran to a bathroom to hide and called authorities.

“Tyson’s mall at the movie theater, there’s a shooter,” the woman says.

“What do you mean there’s a shooter?” the dispatcher asks.

“We were at a restaurant — a TGIFridays — and everyone was running out after the guy with the gun,” the woman says.

Police ended up evacuating all 16 theaters and a food court at the mall, but no other devices were found.

The Fairfax County Fire Marshal’s Office is seeking witnesses and anyone who can help identify a suspect in the case. People are asked to call the Fairfax County police at 703-691-2131.

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