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Popped balloon sparked panic, rumors of shots fired at Florida mall, police say

Posted at 12:07 PM, Oct 15, 2019

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Boca Raton police say a loud noise that sparked panic and concern a local mall on Sunday afternoon was caused by a janitor who popped a balloon.

Police have concluded their investigation into the incident and released the findings on Tuesday.

According to police, surveillance video showed a janitor who was pushing a garbage cart in the food court area of the Town Center Mall dragging a balloon.

When the janitor popped the balloon, shoppers mistook the sound for gunshots and sent them scattering. Detectives said they later found the popped balloon on the floor.

Boca Raton police responded to reports of shots fired at 3 p.m. Sunday. They later determined that a weapon had not been fired.

Boca Raton Fire Rescue initially said one person suffered a gunshot wound. It was later determined the victim hit his head on the push bar of a door while trying to run out of the mall.

Police said an officer found the victim in the parking lot near Bloomingdale's with a traumatic head injury. He spoke to officials and was drifting in and out of consciousness, so police said he was unable to provide any information at first about how he got hurt.

The victim was taken to Delray Medical Center.

Police said they believe there was a delay of several minutes between when the janitor popped the balloon and when people started running.

Surveillance video showed people in the food court visibly reacting to a loud sound in the area. Some witnesses said they heard a balloon pop, according to police.

Investigators said there is no evidence that a crime occurred or that a weapon was used.

The Town Center Mall is now back open and operating under normal business hours. Extra officers have been assigned to patrol the mall.

The mall's operators declined to comment and directed all inquiries to the Boca Raton Police Department.

Boca Raton police said detectives recovered blood and hair on the door the victim ran into, but no weapon, bullet casings, or rounds of ammunition were found at the scene.

This story was originally published by Miranda Christian on WPTV in West Pam Beach, Florida.