Panic broke out Saturday night in the Ballston area of Arlington, Va., as reports of an active shooter spread. But hours later, it was not clear whether a threat ever existed.

Police said they were sent at 8:42 p.m. to the Ballston Quarter mall in response to a possible shooting in a movie theater. But by about 9:30 p.m., they said, they finished their search of the theater and “no evidence of a shooting has been located.”

Nor, officials said, did they find evidence of victims after an hours-long search.

Finally, shortly after midnight Sunday, police said the mall garage was being reopened, giving patrons access to their vehicles. In addition, police said, those who left the food hall without their property could get it outside True Food Kitchen.

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Although no shooting victims were found, a police spokeswoman said one person suffered a minor injury, apparently during the effort to “self-evacuate.” The injury was to be treated at a hospital, officials said.

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For a time Saturday night, theater patrons were asked to “shelter in place” while a search went on, according to the police.

As of late Saturday night, it remained unclear what prompted the initial reports of gunfire. Police said they would try to learn that in the course of their investigation.

Whatever their source, the reports of someone with a gun, or of a shooting, sent people fleeing or got them escorted from stores and restaurants in the center, a shopping, dining and entertainment mall.

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A group of students from Arlington's Yorktown High School watched the first few minutes of a movie at a mall theater until the screen went dark.

"We thought it was part of the movie," said Colby Distasio, a junior at Yorktown.

Then, he said, "the cops came and made us walk out with our hands up."

Jacquelyn Ward said she was dining at a bar when she noticed people racing toward the exits. An employee started to shout that someone was shooting, and screams broke out, she added.

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“Everyone in the restaurant started running,” Ward said, “even the bartenders.”

Another witness to the night’s sudden clamor, Christine Hollins, said she was working in the Macy’s when a manager told customers and employees that they needed to evacuate.

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She said that the departures seemed orderly but that she “definitely saw people running.”

“When somebody says something about gunshots, I said: ‘Let me get my purse and get out of here,’” she added.

The mall is near N. Glebe Road and Wilson Boulevard, a main commercial intersection in North Arlington. Arlington is a Northern Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C.

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