Fireworks prank sends shoppers into panic, forces lockdown at Wolfchase Galleria

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Chaos broke out at Wolfchase Galleria Saturday night as crowds of people went running for the doors and several stores went on lockdown after hearing what they thought were gunshots.

Police say it turns out, it was just a group of kids setting off fireworks inside.

But after several shootings and brawls there in the past few years, shoppers weren’t taking any chances.

Andrew Davis found himself in the middle of the pandemonium after stopping at the mall around 6 p.m. on his dinner break.

"I just sat down with my food and I heard people screaming, so I looked over, and that’s when I saw everybody running towards the door," he said.

He watched as panicked crowds ducked behind walls and pillars and rushed for the exits, and stores raced to lock down.

"Initially, I assumed it was somebody shooting, that’s the first thing I thought," Davis said.

He was afraid he’d be trampled, so he waited a moment before heading outside.

That’s when he saw an officer running into the building and even more frantic people in the parking lot.

"I saw people on the phone, I guess trying to get in touch with family or whoever they had inside the mall," Davis said. "People were upset and crying 'cause they didn’t know what had happened or if the people inside the mall were OK."

Police say a witness spotted three young girls setting off fireworks before taking off running.

But the mall has had its fair share of problems in the past.

Earlier this week, Anterrio Chambers was sentenced to 31 years in prison on attempted murder charges for shooting at two men in the parking lot in 2015.

The following year, a 21-year-old was shot in the parking lot while the mall was packed with Black Friday shoppers.

And a month later — on one of the busiest shopping days of the year — a massive flash mob broke out inside.

Then, around the exact same time of year last Christmas, the mall was put on lockdown after another brawl and shooting.

In March, there was gunfire in the parking lot again after another fight.

Davis, who carries his gun everywhere he’s legally allowed, says even though last night's incident was a false alarm, he felt helpless.

"To me it would make more sense to let the law-abiding citizens carry guns so if that situation went the wrong way and there was somebody in there with a gun, somebody like me or somebody else who’s carrying, they have some kind of defense against it," he said.

No one was hurt, but police still haven’t found the girls who lit the fireworks. Investigators say they were seen running out of the Dillards exit and jumping into a black Ford Focus.

If you know anything, call Crime Stoppers at 528-CASH.

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