It appears a phone call that resulted in officers with guns drawn combing the inside of the Avalon Mall in St. John’s Friday night was a false alarm.
Const. James Cadigan confirmed to reporters during a news conference Monday afternoon at RNC headquarters that officers are investigating a public mischief as a result of a report that there had been a shooting that night inside the mall.
“There was no information on site — and in correspondence with the security of the Avalon Mall — to substantiate that any incident had occurred,” Cadigan said.
“You know, we take these matters very seriously.”
Cadigan said eight officers from street patrol responded and they arrived at the mall less than three minutes after the phone call was received at 10 p.m.
Following training protocol, he said, officers cleared the building, which despite being after department store closing hours, had several people inside in areas that included the Rec Room restaurant, cinemas and the eating area. Officers were inside about an hour.
Cadigan said investigators have traced the source of the call, but wouldn’t reveal whether the call came from inside or outside the mall.
“That information is part of the active investigation,” he said.
Cadigan said he recognizes that the sight of officers armed with weapons would have been quite alarming to people inside the mall at the time.
“When our members respond to information of a shooting, there is an appropriate response and our members did respond appropriately, consistently in our training,” he said.
“I actually want to commend our members on their courage and professionalism.
“With the information that was provided, it was certainly worth (mention) that they were able to walk in there with professionalism and respond appropriately, with protection of the public as priority.”
The RNC did not provide The Telegram with many details about the incident at the time, only to say it was not a training exercise — as some reported on social media — and there was no threat to public safety.
Cadigan also answered questions about why information was not conveyed to the media and public until Sunday evening — two days later.
He said a decision was made to hold back information based on concerns for copycats and to prevent further attention being drawn to the incident.
However, Cadigan, who was out of town at the time, admitted police could have handled communications better.
“Now, looking back, we could have communicated on this and it definitely would have been better approaches,” he said.
“Social media took the narrative on this and that’s something we’ll avoid going forward.”