SAN JOSE (CBS SF/KPIX) -- Four hours after issuing a shelter-in-place order due to shots fired, San Jose police said the Westfield Oakridge Mall was 'all clear' after a store-to-store search turned up no shooter or victim. Mall employees were instructed to return to secure their stores.
The incident at the crowded mall in the South Bay during one of the busiest shopping weeks of the year frightened shoppers and sparked a massive and swift multi-agency law enforcement response.
San Jose police said they received several calls about an altercation that ended in gunfire near the Forever 21 store at 5:48 p.m. Officers, who had no idea whether the shooter was still inside the mall, responded within minutes and entered the shopping center.
Officers with the San Jose Police Department, California Highway Patrol and deputies with the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department secured entrances and exits of the mall as a team of officers went from store to store to escort shoppers and employees to safety.
They said they were also searching for the shooter and a victim.
"Right now we are doing a systematic search of this entire mall," said San Jose Police Sgt. Christian Camarillo. "There could still be an armed suspect somewhere in this mall. We're not going to give the all clear until we search every corner of this mall."
Police also said they would be setting up a reunification center at the Home Depot parking lot across the street on the 900 block of Blossom Hill Road so family members could find anyone they had been separated from.
A mall employee, who wanted to remain anonymous, said he heard one loud "boom" that sounded like "a shotgun" before a crowd of shoppers began to scream and cry.
He said about 100 people ran into his store where he hid with them in a locked back room.
"I tried to be calm because I know people were panicking inside there," he said.
Franz Hurtado said he received a call from his 11-year-old daughter who ran into the Old Navy store to hide. They continued to communicate through text messages.
"It was very, very scary," Hurtado said. "She was brave, she was brave until now. It's been a long day for her."
Police completed the search of the mall just before 10 p.m., but did not say whether a suspect or victim had been found. It's unknown what the altercation was about, what type of gun was used in the incident or how many shots were fired.
"Officers will be at the scene for a few more hours gathering evidence and conducting the investigation," said San Jose Police in a tweet.
"The sad part is we had kids in our store," said the mall worker who wanted to remain anonymous. "This is supposed to be the happiest time of the year."
With just five days away from Christmas, the large shopping center was packed with thousands of shoppers. Many more were watching movies inside the mall's theater.
"I get to hug my little girl again," said Hurtado. "Scary moment, scary moment for the family."
Maria Medina contributed to this report.
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