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AC 360 LATER

Gunman in New Jersey Mall

Aired November 4, 2013 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. Welcome to the program.

Tonight, a special edition of "AC360 Later" on race and justice in America, how America's ongoing struggle for equality plays out and sometimes falls short in the courts, on the streets and in places you might never expect.

With us tonight, documentary filmmaker Ross Tuttle, Columbia University professor and bestselling author John McWhorter, "New York Times" op-ed columnist Charles Blow, and retired New York Police Detective Kevin Flanagan.

We begin though tonight with stop and frisk, which is used in many cities nationwide, but nowhere more so than here in New York City.

Last year, the NYPD stopped more than half a million people. That number is lower this year and may soon be lower still. The front-runner in tomorrow's mayoral election is deeply skeptical about the program. A judge ruled is unconstitutional. Then an appeals court put that ruling on hold, so the policy continues.

Frankly, one of the challenges of covering this story has always been how hard it is to actually see or hear an actual stop and frisk incident until now. Thanks to Ross Tuttle, you can hear what one stop sounded like recorded by a young man featured in Tuttle's documentary "The Hunted and the Hated."

We warn you, the language you are going to hear is very rough.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You again?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just got stopped like two blocks ago.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You look very suspicious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because you all are always looking me crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You keep looking back at us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because you always looking crazy. (CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listen to me. Listen to me. Our job is to look for suspicious behavior. When you keep looking at us like that...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just got stopped like two blocks away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because you keep doing that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) man. We stopped you last time, because listen to me, when you were walking the block with your hood up and you can keep looking back at us like that...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I had my hoodie.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was cold. You going to smack me? You going to smack me? No, you asked me why...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who you talking to?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why you -- come on. Why you touching me for?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The documentary is available, by the way, through "The Nation" magazine.

Charles, when you hear that what does it make you think about stop and frisk?

CHARLES BLOW, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think that it's a clear explanation of what actually happens in a stop and frisk. I think a lot of people are under the illusion that is it more friendly than it is, that it's not as invasive, that it doesn't have the potential to turn as violent as it often does according to some of the people who have been stopped and frisked.

And I think that what we run to risk of doing is divesting these people of their basic humanity and at the same time stripping them of their Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. That's the rub here.

It's not simply that people can say it has been successful in some ways. You can be both successful -- the tactic can be both successful in some ways and destructive in others, but also unconstitutional at the same time. That's what the judge said in her ruling, which is that it can work, but if it's unconstitutional you cannot use it. That's what we are facing here in New York City and in other cities around the country.

COOPER: That recording in your film, is that an anomaly, that kind of -- that exchange?

ROSS TUTTLE, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: I mean, the recording itself is rare.

This may be only the evidence of an actual stop that people have. But when we played it for a lot of people, people said, yes, that's how it goes down. That's exactly -- even a cop told us, he said, that's exactly how it goes down. And we heard that from a lot of people, a lot of activists and a lot of individuals and a lot of kids.

It even seemed like in a certain community, this audio had been circulating for a while and it had been out there and people didn't really latch on to it. I don't know for certain, but I think for some people they thought maybe it's not that extraordinary because they were so inculcated in this. They had experienced it so many times. They had felt it.

A lot of people heard it and weren't that shocked and when it started to get a little bit more aggressive people braced a bit. But a lot of people who have experienced this, they heard it and they didn't seem that shocked by it. And people who have never experienced this, it is shocking.

COOPER: I want to continue our discussion.

I just got to pause for a moment. We do have some breaking news tonight.

There are reports of shots fired at one of the largest shopping centers in the New York area. It's happening at the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey, about 25 minutes west of the island of Manhattan. Police are there right now. Paramus police believe there is a shooter inside the mall. Again, they do believe there is a gunman somewhere in the mall.

On the phone is Eddie Kahmann, who works at the Pacific Sunwear store inside the store.

Eddie, what have you seen and what have you heard?

EDDIE KAHMANN, WITNESS: The only thing that I have heard was six or seven gunshots around like 9:20 p.m.

I walked out of the store just to see what was going on and there was just people running like crazy. I quickly just closed my door and ran to the back and turned off the lights and music and everything just to stay hidden.

COOPER: That's where you are currently now still inside the mall?

KAHMANN: Yes.

COOPER: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

KAHMANN: We were told by police officers not to move.

COOPER: So you have seen police on the scene?

KAHMANN: Yes.

COOPER: Can you say where you heard the shots emanating from?

KAHMANN: Most likely from the Macy's area of the mall, which is to the right of us.

COOPER: And you said about six shots? Is that correct?

KAHMANN: About like six or seven, yes.

COOPER: How rapid were the shots? One right after the other?

KAHMANN: No, they weren't rapid at all. It was like maybe one and then 30 seconds later another one. It wasn't one right after the other. It was pretty much like a shotgun sound.

COOPER: Did you know right away what it was, that it was shots?

KAHMANN: No.

At first, I thought maybe something like a construction crew dropped something or something like that. And I figured, OK, whatever. Then when I just started seeing hearing it again and saw people starting running and the shots getting louder, that's when I figured out what it was. And the first thing I did was closed my doors as fast as possible and hide.

COOPER: What time does the mall close there normally?

KAHMANN: 9:30.

COOPER: 9:30. You said these shots were about 9:20?

How crowded was the mall at 9:20?

KAHMANN: I mean, not really crowded at all. It has been a very slow day for the mall. There wasn't really a lot of people inside the mall.

COOPER: You said you saw people running. About how many people did you running?

KAHMANN: About like 20 maybe total.

COOPER: And to your knowledge, have there been any shots since those initial shots that you heard around 9:20?

KAHMANN: No. COOPER: When was the last time you saw police officers on the scene who were telling you that there...

KAHMANN: Maybe a minute ago just running by with shields. And now they're screaming.

COOPER: What are they screaming?

KAHMANN: They are screaming at somebody to put their hands up.

COOPER: Obviously, do not leave the position you're in, but if you can just tell us anything you hear. You heard them yelling to someone to get their hands up? You heard them saying someone has their hands up?

KAHMANN: Yes. No, somebody to get their hands up.

COOPER: Do you know approximately how far away those calls are coming from?

KAHMANN: Most likely if anything like right around the corner from me. Pretty close.

COOPER: Are you hearing anything else?

KAHMANN: No.

COOPER: How long have you been in the position that you're in right now?

KAHMANN: Since March.

COOPER: No. I'm sorry. I mean, in the physical position that you are in right now.

(CROSSTALK)

KAHMANN: I'm sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: No. I'm interested in your employment history, but...

(CROSSTALK)

KAHMANN: I keep walking around my store.

COOPER: You have been walking around your store?

KAHMANN: Yes. I see people. I see images through my mirror. They are outside of my -- they are like right next to the store.

COOPER: What are you seeing right now?

KAHMANN: I see a shotgun. That's for sure. I can't tell if it's a human or -- a police officer. A police officer. I see a badge.

COOPER: So you see a police officer with a -- what appears to be a shotgun?

KAHMANN: Yes.

COOPER: Are they -- do they seem on point? Do they seem relaxed or does it seem like -- you said they were calling for someone to have their hands up. Do you see at all who has their hands up?

KAHMANN: No. Now they are walking past my store, the state police.

COOPER: About how many police have you seen in the time that you have been inside the store?

KAHMANN: Around about like 25. I have seen local police, I have seen SWAT police and now there are state police.

COOPER: So, there's a heavy police presence?

KAHMANN: Yes.

COOPER: Are there other customers in the store with you?

KAHMANN: No. Nobody was here when this all happened.

COOPER: What has this been like? What has going through your mind these last 40 minutes?

KAHMANN: Pretty much staying as far away from the windows as possible. If that is an actual shooter, I'm not getting anywhere near close enough to getting injured. I even have my associate who is nowhere near the door area whatsoever.

COOPER: Well, Eddie...

KAHMANN: Just hoping that they catch the person and we can all eventually leave here, because I do not need here to be here any longer right now.

COOPER: Yes, I can imagine. I can't imagine what it has been like.

Eddie, we're going to continue to check in with you. If you can, just obviously stay with you -- stay where you are. Eddie, I appreciate it.

Ally Kozic also is inside the mall. Ally is joining us.

Ally, don't give us your exact location, but what you have heard, what have you seen?

ALLY KOZIC, WITNESS: About 10 minutes before we were going to close for the night, we started hearing loud bangs. Then everyone started running throughout the mall. And someone ran past our store and screamed for us to close our door. And we didn't really know what was going on. And about 10 seconds later, I saw someone dressed in all black carrying a large gun walk past our store. It was just chaos. Everyone was just kind of running to wherever they could.

COOPER: Again, I just want to caution you, don't want you to give the location of your store in our conversation just for obvious reasons.

What did the person look like? You said they were dressed all in black. Do you have any more description of what their face looked like? How were they walking? Were they walking fast?

KOZIC: It was almost was like when you're watching a horror movie, and the killer is walking slowly. That's what it seemed like.

He was wearing all black and it almost looked like body armor of some kind. It really was -- as soon as I saw the gun, I just kind of turned and ran. I really didn't get that great of a look at him. I was just kind of concerned about getting out of there and running and getting into the back of our store.

COOPER: That's obviously an incredibly smart move on your part. You said it is possible he was wearing some form of body armor?

KOZIC: That's what it looked like.

COOPER: Was it just one weapon in his hand? You said it appears to be some sort of a rifle?

KOZIC: All I saw was one large gun. I'm not really familiar with a lot of guns.

But the guns had sort of a loud bang with just some space in between. It wasn't like a fast machine gun. It was just a loud bang, bang, bang. We heard about like eight or nine shots.

COOPER: You say eight or nine shots. How far apart were those shots?

KOZIC: About like 10, 15 seconds, if that.

COOPER: How far away was the shooting from where you are?

KOZIC: I mean, it sounded like it was, like, 10 feet outside of our store. So, I -- honestly, I was inside of the store that I am in. So I didn't see where it originated. But it sounded very close to us.

COOPER: Do you have a sense of -- you said you saw people running. Did it appear as if this gunman was walking toward the direction that they were running away? Did it look like he was walking after them or just kind of wandering around?

KOZIC: It just looked like from the Nordstrom area of the mall, he was just going straight and straight down and that's how people were running and running out of that area, just kind of into any store that they could and clearing the hallways of the mall.

COOPER: We are told that the mall obviously is on lockdown right now. The last person we talked to said that they had seen dozens of police officers from multiple different jurisdictions and law enforcement agencies on the scene. Have you seen that as well? Have you seen a lot of police on the scene?

KOZIC: Well, when we weren't sure what was happening, I kind of came out of the back of our store to look and I saw about 10 or 15 police officers scaling kind of the sides of the stores across from us.

So it looked like they were going toward the way that the people had been running and that the gunman had been walking. So -- but I have seen mall security and I have seen multiple police officers from Paramus and other local areas. So there's definitely a lot of police officers on the scene. And I have been getting flooded with text messages and calls that there are tons of cops outside the mall and tons of different cops in the mall.

But where we are, I can't really tell what is going on out there at the moment.

COOPER: Ally, I can tell you we just have gotten live pictures from outside the mall looks like at the entrance to Nordstrom. And, as you said, there are a large number of police vehicles with their flashing lights all throughout that area.

That Nordstrom mall, that is where you believe you saw the shooter walking away from?

KOZIC: Yes. Again, I'm not trying to give away from location, but I'm close to that area. And that's where it sounded like originally like that is where it was coming from.

COOPER: How are you doing?

KOZIC: I'm freaking out. Probably one of the scariest things I have ever been around. And not really knowing what is going on or what is happening, it's definitely really scary.

But I'm just happy that I'm safe and the girls that I work with are safe. As long as we get out of here, as long as none of us are hurt, but definitely very scary.

COOPER: Well, I don't need to tell you this, but obviously you should stay in the location that you are in and continue to just stay down and wait for law enforcement personnel to tell you. Have you heard anything since those shots?

Excuse me. About what time were those shots? We had one report that they were around 9:20.

KOZIC: Yes, it started about -- yes, exactly. We close at 9:30. It was about 10 minutes before we were about to close.

COOPER: Have you heard really anything since then?

KOZIC: No, not really. I heard dogs barking before. But other than that, I really haven't heard anything. The police seemed like they were, yes, being very quiet and just trying to catch whoever the person was, but I really haven't heard anything other than that.

COOPER: Well, Ally, I'm going to get off the phone with you. I appreciate you talking to us. And again just stay in the location where you are. You're doing great. Just try to stay calm.

(CROSSTALK)

KOZIC: It's hard. We're trying.

COOPER: Yes. You stay strong.

KOZIC: OK. Thank you.

COOPER: Scott Garber is CNN's satellite truck operator. He's on the scene.

Scott, can you explain what you are seeing all around you?

SCOTT GARBER, CNN: Hi, Anderson.

We just got here at the Paramus Mall. We got here about 10 minutes ago. As you can see from the camera picture, we have a large presence of many jurisdictions of police. There's probably 25 units here just outside the Nordstrom.

Some passersby that we have been talking to, one individual indicated that there is still a gunman loose in the mall. It's unconfirmed, that was the passerby that reported that to me. It look like most people have made it to their cars and have moved out, but they are saying that the mall is a lockdown.

Other than what you can see with the cameras, our cameraman, Rick Hall (ph), is panning right now, showing at the other end of the mall there is another large presence. We heard this is where this gunman or the shooting or whatever unconfirmed at this point happened started here at Nordstrom -- back to you, Anderson.

COOPER: I'm sorry. I just want to clarify. Where did you get the information and exactly where was the shooting incident starting?

GARBER: What we are hearing is that Nordstrom was where the first incident -- but that was from a passerby. That's not any official word.

COOPER: OK. OK.

GARBER: Strictly people who are walking by.

Another couple of young teenagers said that their brother was still inside. We have no confirmation of any injuries or no official word from any information officer at this point.

COOPER: Have you seen any ambulances on the scene?

GARBER: We have seen some drive by, not at this location. It seems they have moved to the other side of the mall, but, at this point, no, right where we are here at Nordstrom.

COOPER: All right, Scott, I appreciate you calling in. I know you have a lot of work to do.

I want to bring in Paul Erlandson -- or Erlandson. He is also on the phone and he's outside the mall.

Paul, were you inside the mall at any point or have you been outside this whole time?

PAUL ERLANDSON, WITNESS: Hey. How is it going?

I was outside. I was in the process of walking through the front doors actually as a huge crowd of people were basically running towards me. At first, I had no idea what was going on. So, I never actually made it inside the mall, but I was just walking in when all this happened.

COOPER: And how long have you been outside?

ERLANDSON: I mean, I'm still here. I'm in the parking lot now, a good distance away from the mall. So, I'm definitely not in harm's way any longer, but I have been here since 9:00.

COOPER: We are just getting our first images outside the mall from our truck op Scott, Scott Garber. What we are seeing is the outside of Nordstrom with a number of police vehicles. Is that your vantage point you have as well?

ERLANDSON: I'm actually on the west side of the mall, so I'm looking more at Neiman Marcus and like California Pizza Kitchen is the entrance that I was standing in front of?

COOPER: And what are you seeing?

ERLANDSON: It looks like at this point that they have actually shut off the lights inside the west side of the mall from what I can see. There are a large number of police cars outside right now as well.

COOPER: Paul, listen, I appreciate you being on the scene as well. And just stay safe.

I want to bring in Kevin Flanagan, formerly a New York City police detective. And obviously we will continue to look at the picture we have of outside the mall.

In an incident like this, when there have been shots fired, what is the procedure?

KEVIN FLANAGAN, RETIRED NYPD DETECTIVE: It sounds like it is actually in gear there, isolate, contain.

They are trying to do lockdown, the people in the stores taking cover. The people who are actually in the stores in close proximity should remember most of those walls are Sheetrock walls and an errant bullet could still penetrate. And they should be seeking cover within their store. But the police would start systematically isolating corridors, closing it off, creating safe zones and start to evacuate and back people out.

COOPER: With a mall of this size, this is a very well-known mall in the area, this is going to take a fair amount of time.

FLANAGAN: It sounds, though, as if this was a particular area and it -- from the reports that we're getting here on the show, that they seem to have an area defined.

And one of the callers mentioned hearing dogs. So I guess they have -- looking for the smell of the gunpowder and checking where the damage was. Your first caller talked about gunshots, not rapid fire, like boom, like shoot, shoot.

COOPER: Right, with 15 to 20 seconds in between.

(CROSSTALK)

FLANAGAN: Exactly.

So they most likely have an area. And I'm concerned that the -- that attire that the person is wearing. It sounds like this person may have gone in there looking to do battle.

COOPER: Right.

Again, we had one witness, Ally Kozic, who said that the person she believed to be the gunman was wearing all black, possibly, she said, possibly, and she stressed this -- she only got a quick glimpse -- possibly wearing some sort of tactical vest.

The weapon involved here which according to Ally seemed to be some sort of a rifle or at least some sort of long weapon, if it is a rifle, that's obviously not the kind of thing you just happen to be carrying.

FLANAGAN: Certainly not, which I -- as I was listening, I was forming the opinion of somebody with an agenda.

You know, the attire and the fact that it's a rifle, to your point, it's not a concealed handgun or an automatic weapon where you are coming in. It sounds like somebody whose intent -- there was a particular place or an adversary they were seeking by being prepared like this.

COOPER: Right. The first -- the young man we talked to -- I'm told we're being joined by someone who by the name of Jonathan Astacio. He is in the mall right now. Jonathan, I appreciate talking to you. If you could, don't give your exact location just for obviously safety reasons. What have you heard tonight?

JONATHAN ASTACIO, WITNESS: Well, so far -- well, this is what happened.

I was in the front of the store talking to a couple customers and our store, Brookstone, is adjacent to the Nordstrom. Right? And we heard two loud booms. At first, we were just joking around, taking it lightly. We weren't really sure what was happening. Then we heard two more shots and we saw people running. So, quick reaction, I just -- I told the associate to run to the back.

And there were a couple people. There were a couple people in the store and a couple people outside the store. I told them all to just run into the back to the stockroom. And that's where we are right now. And so far, we have heard there is a guy in full body armor entered the Nordstrom, let go a few shots, and hit four people.

COOPER: You said you have heard that. Where have you heard that?

ASTACIO: We had a lot of people -- everyone in the store is calling their relatives and friends. And they are just hearing it in the news.

COOPER: OK.

We just want to be very cautious in terms of only giving out information that we can actually verify. Obviously, eyewitness reporting, there is going to be a lot of -- in the initial contact, there will be a lot of contradictory information.

But did you at any point -- again, I just would stress, there is no need for you to give details on your exact location. Were you actually able to see the alleged gunman?

ASTACIO: No, we weren't able to see, but we were able to hear the gunshots clearly, because out store is literally just one store away from the Nordstrom.

COOPER: And about how much time was there between the first shot and then you said there were two more shots?

ASTACIO: Yes. The first two shots were pretty much about two or three seconds apart. They were really quick. And then the corresponding three and four were a couple seconds apart. And then after that there was no gunshots for another half-hour.

COOPER: And then you heard more gunshots after that or no more gunshots at all?

ASTACIO: No more gunshots at all. After the fourth one, no more.

COOPER: You are saying there were about four gunshots?

ASTACIO: Yes.

COOPER: OK. And to your knowledge, did the shots begin inside the Nordstrom or outside the Nordstrom?

ASTACIO: It sounded like it was outside the Nordstrom, because it sounded really -- like super clearly.

COOPER: Is the area outside the Nordstrom, is that an area where there are places to sit? Is that an area where there would have been people congregating? Or how big an area is that?

(CROSSTALK)

ASTACIO: No, the Nordstrom is a pretty big. It's a department- size store. There is a lot of areas. There is an area for the people to stay and congregate. The entrance of the mall is actually -- one of the entrances in the mall is the Nordstrom.

COOPER: Right. And we have a camera crew right outside at that entrance showing the outside of the Nordstrom, where there is obviously a heavy police presence.

Have you seen a large number of police personnel inside the mall?

ASTACIO: Yes, a lot of SWAT teams and a lot of police. I am keeping track. I have one of my associates keeping track of the cameras, so he sees all the SWAT and cameras -- all the SWAT and cops walking around the mall.

COOPER: You have a security camera that you're able to look at from the location that you're in?

ASTACIO: Exactly. We can see outside the store.

COOPER: Does it seem as if they are -- does it seem like the police are still searching for someone? Or is there any way for you to tell? Are they standing around or do they seem to be actively searching?

ASTACIO: At first, it seemed more active, actively looking. But now it is just calmed down. There's barely any -- I barely like see any police walking by. And if we do, it's really passive.

COOPER: How are you doing? How is everybody who is with you doing?

ASTACIO: You know, of course, a situation like this, there is a lot of people hiding and everyone is nervous. I'm trying to make sure everyone is calm. I took out a couple blankets for people to use. We constantly keeping calling people, 911 and relatives to keep -- stay updated on the matter.

COOPER: Jonathan, I want to listen in to our affiliate, WABC, for some more information. Let's hold on and let's listen in. Sorry. We have not been able to make that contact. We will do that very shortly.

Jonathan, in terms of what time this actually occurred, we have had various reports that it was around 9:20. Is that your understanding as well?

ASTACIO: Yes, it happened about between 9:15 and 9:20.

COOPER: And the mall normally closes at 9:30. Were there a lot of people in the mall, to your knowledge?

ASTACIO: Yes, this is a pretty big mall, so there was a fair amount of people in the mall. And there was a lot of people in the mall.

COOPER: Have police said anything to you or said -- have they actually come into your location?

ASTACIO: No, they haven't come into our location. The only people we talk to is the 911 and they just said to stay tight until everything gets cleared.

COOPER: Jonathan, we just started to get some more information.

I'm passing this along to you at the same time I'm passing it along to our viewers. This is from the New Jersey State Police. They say that one gunman who they say was firing at security cameras. They say they have no reports at this point anyone is hurt. They have a number of descriptions of the gunman, but so far none are deemed credible.

Again, this is according to the New Jersey State Police. So according to the state police, they say they have no credible information of any injuries, but a gunman firing at least at security cameras.

What sort of -- how many security cameras, to your knowledge, are there in that area?

ASTACIO: In around the mall?

COOPER: Yes, by the Nordstrom and by the area that people have congregated. Are they visible security cameras?

ASTACIO: Yes. For the most part, all the security cameras are pretty visible. This is a pretty high-profile mall. There is a slew of security cameras all over the place.

COOPER: Are they the kind of security cameras that are kind of just like a half a globe in a ceiling?

ASTACIO: Exactly.

COOPER: Or is it an actual -- what looks like a rectangular camera pointing down? ASTACIO: Yes. No, it's more of the globe.

COOPER: OK. So they are identifiable. So, if somebody was wanting to shoot at them, they would be able to figure out what the security cameras were?

ASTACIO: Exactly.

COOPER: All right, Jonathan, you stay in your location, obviously.

I was going to ask you, have police actually come into your location? Have they talked to you and the others in the store yet? Jonathan, you still there? All right. We lost Jonathan.

Jeanne Baratta is chief of staff of Bergen County. She's joining us no on the phone.

Jeanne, do you have any new information -- do you have any information of what is going to on exactly here at the mall? We are waiting for Jeanne Baratta.

It's night, now police saying -- and, again, we want to be very cautious in this kind of a situation, because as we all know, early reports are completely contradictory. We have now had tonight three people who are inside the mall, Kevin, saying one -- the first person said they heard eight or nine shots. The next person said, Ally Kozic, said she believed she heard six and Jonathan there said he's pretty sure he just heard four gunshots.

A lot of obviously contradictory information. Emotions are running high for people. But the New Jersey State Police saying so far no reports of any injuries, which is certainly good news.

FLANAGAN: Very good news, very good news.

It's interesting that the reports are coming out that he shot out cameras.

COOPER: Yes. Yes. That's what...

FLANAGAN: That's what the police are saying. It makes you wonder between the 10 minutes before closing time of the mall, taking out cameras in a particular area, he obviously had to walk through the mall to get to that particular location.

There is an agenda, something else...

COOPER: Going on.

FLANAGAN: ... preconceived here that this person is looking to deal with.

COOPER: Jeanne Baratta, chief of staff of Bergen County, is now joining us on the phone.

Jeanne, what is happening at the mall? What can you tell us?

JEANNE BARATTA, SPOKESWOMAN, BERGEN COUNTY, NEW JERSEY: Right now, Bergen County SWAT has been deployed to the scene. They are on the scene right now and they are evacuating the mall.

COOPER: Do you know what the threat is?

BARATTA: All we know is we believe that there is one shooter in the mall. Multiple shots were heard fired in the mall near the Nordstrom area of the mall.

COOPER: To your knowledge, have there been any injuries?

BARATTA: No injuries have been reported.

COOPER: There was a report from the New Jersey State Police about an active shooter shooting security cameras. Have you heard that as well?

BARATTA: I can't confirm that, no.

COOPER: OK.

Do you have any accurate information of exactly how many shots were fired?

BARATTA: Multiple shots is all that we're hearing. Paramus police were called. And then the Bergen County SWAT team was deployed to the mall.

COOPER: And to your knowledge, I assume this mall has security personnel as well.

BARATTA: Yes, they do. It's a very large mall.

COOPER: Would they be armed as well, do you know?

BARATTA: No, they wouldn't be.

COOPER: OK. So the mall security is not armed. So, for armed response, it would be Bergen County SWAT team, Paramus police as well.

Do you have any idea how many law enforcement personnel are on the scene now?

BARATTA: I do not know. I'm on my way to the scene now.

COOPER: OK. Jeanne, I'm going to let you go. I know you have got a lot of work to do. We will check in back with you shortly.

Again, we're looking obviously at more pictures, more tactical units, it looked like, deploying outside -- outside the mall -- clearly, no word that this is in any way over. Nicole Packs just was escorted out of the mall by a SWAT team. She joins us now.

Nicole, how are you doing? NICOLE PACKS, WITNESS (via phone): Flustered, but I'm OK now.

COOPER: Well, you're outside the mall now, right? You're safe?

PACKS: Right now, yes, I'm driving off and going to my co- worker's house.

COOPER: OK. Can you tell me -- can you tell me what you heard, what you saw?

PACKS: I was coming out of my shift, and I heard maybe two or three really loud gunshots coming from the Nordstrom section part of the mall. And I just hear people running in one direction saying, "There's a shooter, there's a shooter." My first instinct was to run back to my store and tell the rest of my staff what I just heard.

COOPER: And that's what you did?

PACKS: Yes, exactly.

COOPER: What happened then? What did you do then?

PACKS: The best option was just to have everybody lock down. I mean, thankfully, there were a few of us, only six of us in the store. We went to the back room and we just locked everything and vibrated our phones and just hoped for the news to come, just to know when is it safe to go out.

COOPER: When you say you locked down your store, do you have -- Is there a gate on the store? Are there glass doors on the store? How are you...

PACKS: It's a bit of both. It's a glass door store and it's also like a caged-up entranceway.

COOPER: Did -- did police enter, or how was it that police found you to bring you out?

PACKS: I'm not sure. I just know that they peeked their head through the door, and they had rifles and they were just yelling, "Everybody come out with your hands on your head." And we came out with our hands on our head. They searched us, and they escorted us towards the entrance out of the mall. And then they searched us again and told us, "Go home. Run and go home."

COOPER: Did police say anything to you about what was going on and whether the shooter was still -- still there?

PACKS: Only thing they asked us was, "Did you see him?" I had no idea what to say. They just asked me, "Did you see him?"

COOPER: Did anybody you were with in the store see him?

PACKS: No, no. I was the only one that heard the gunshots. And I just ran back, and I just told them, "Everybody go to the back. There's a shooting." COOPER: I'm trying to get a sense of kind of the location, how active an area this was. One person we talked to said the area outside the Nordstrom inside the mall is kind of an area people would gather in. Is it an area where there's seating, where there's, you know, tables? Is it kind of a...

PACKS: Yes. There's lounges and there's restaurants right underneath of it. That's an area, an active area of the mall.

COOPER: We're also told New Jersey State Police have said early reports -- again, these are -- I just caution our viewers -- all of these are just early, early reports, but we're trying to stick to official sources as much as possible. New Jersey State Police saying the shooter had shot out some security cameras. To your knowledge, are there -- are many visible security cameras in that area?

PACKS: I don't know anything specifically in our area. But I know that in my specific store, we are able to see the entranceway into our store, and we watch that panel to see who's walking across that entrance, if anybody was coming in or walking past.

COOPER: Well, listen, I'm so glad you are -- you're OK and that you're safe and you're on your way to go with your co-workers. It's good to be with people who have been through the same situation.

PACKS: Absolutely.

COOPER: Nicole, just drive safely. Take some deep breaths. And I'm glad you're out of there.

PACKS: Thank you so much.

COOPER: All right. You take care. Stay strong.

On the phone I want to see -- want to check in with our Susan Candiotti. See if she has any new information.

Susan, if you're there, what do you know at this hour?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Just on the road right now. So not at the location. But still, the police are telling us that they have set up a perimeter around -- around the mall. All those stores, 100 or so, on lockdown at the present time while they try to figure out where this person is.

Again, the report I have from the state police is they're looking for at least one gunman. There could be more. But as you've been saying all along, these are early reports, and because they're getting conflicting reports about -- on the description of this person, they say none is credible at this time. So they're not giving one out, but suffice it to say they've got multiple local agencies at this time assisting the Paramus Police. So far no federal agencies that we know of are involved -- Anderson.

COOPER: And Susan, we should tell you that we spoke to one young woman who is still currently inside the mall. We're obviously not giving out her exact location. She said she did get a glimpse of the shooter. She very quickly admits it was a very quick glimpse. So our viewers should take this with a grain of salt. It is one eyewitness account. She said the shooter, she believed was dressed all in black, possibly with some sort of tactical vest, some sort of bulletproof vest and what she described as a long weapon, some sort of a rifle. But again, she didn't really know much beyond that.

Let's -- let's check in with WABC, who's talking to some eyewitnesses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And basically, all that happened was, like, the mall security came inside and just screamed, like, "Everybody get out of the store." And so my main concern, like, being the supervisor was getting my people out of the store 100 percent and making sure everyone was safe. Because once he started shooting, and the guy obviously had the gun and was walking around the store, it was, you know, time to go. You have to get everyone out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Describe what the shooter looked like. What was he like?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was a tall guy, but he had a biker helmet, leather jacket, mask. So you couldn't really see his face or like make -- or like who the guy was. But it was definitely a scary situation.

It was a regular Monday at the mall, and then all of a sudden, like, I didn't even believe it at first and then the mall security literally had to scream, like, "Get the 'F' out." I was like, OK, it's time to go. Because it wasn't even like, you know, a code or whatever. It was just like "Get out." Because it was too fast. It all happened really, really fast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Let me get a perspective from your co-worker. Tell me what you heard, what you saw as you were working tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we were cash wrap, and it was going pretty normal. And all of a sudden, we heard a pop, a really loud pop, and we didn't really know what it was. It was pretty loud.

All of a sudden a horde of customers just come running from the mall entrance all the way towards the center of the mall. We waited a bit. I called for a manager. I called for Mercedes and waited for her to come up. Once she came up, we heard two more pops. Mall security ran in and said, "You guys got to get out. You guys got to get out." So essentially, we pretty much just evacuated everyone that we could. Checked upstairs, downstairs. And we just -- we just left it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you feeling after seeing all that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a bit of a shock, but I really -- I tried -- I tried to keep my composure. Yes, we really -- all you have to do is think about how -- like what we need to do now. You can't really worry about anything else. So we essentially just got everyone out. There were some customer stragglers downstairs. We picked them up and got them outside. Fortunately, we're all out and safely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. I want to get one more perspective about the security. Because it's amazing how quickly they got to the staff that then got to the customers that were inside the store. Tell me about the security and how they got you involved?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, first of all, we all have walkies to communicate with each other in the store. So when we heard over the walkie we were all thinking to ourselves, like, is this a drill? But then we saw mall security, our manager was like get out of the store. We saw the security. Security told us to leave, and so we just -- I dropped my things. I told everyone in the stock room to get out, grabbed everybody, and we ran. We got out of there quick as we could.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were there people crying? Describe the emotion of that, of not knowing what was going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First we saw people run to the door. So we were all -- The employees were all wondering, like, what's going on? So we were just telling everyone -- they just told everyone to all get out. They're grabbing their kids, grabbing their stuff. They dropped all their things. And we called out -- We reacted the same way and just left. We ran.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you see the gunman, as well?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, I saw -- I didn't see him as much as they did. But I just heard -- you could hear the gunshot from like a mile away. You could hear it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could hear it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, like a firecracker.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you knew that it was a gunshot not a firecracker?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, at first -- at first, we were just like what's that sound and then we heard it over the walkie. And we're like, we've got to go. Gunshots fired. As soon as we heard "gunshot," we left. We ran away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. All right. And then at that point as I'm hearing from the staff here. It was amazing the police presence that you had here immediately. Right? It really and truly. So many of them were scared. They've been over at that Bank of America bank branch just waiting, you know, of course. There's the entire staff, obviously very scared about what they saw here.

At this point, the mall is surrounded by police. And again we don't know if the gunman or multiple gunmen are still inside the store. That is what a lot of people here are waiting to find out -- Bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just want to ask you if you could ask them... COOPER: I want to check in -- excuse me. I want to check in with Shawnna Sidoti, who's outside the mall. Shawnna, where were you when the shots were fired, when you heard the shots? Tell me what you heard and saw?

SHAWNNA SIDOTI, EYEWITNESS: I was outside the mall by the parking lot and I heard three shots being fired. And all of a sudden you just see people running out.

COOPER: So -- I'm sorry, how many shots did you say you heard?

SIDOTI: Three.

COOPER: And how far away from you were they?

SIDOTI: How far away were they what?

COOPER: How far away were you from these shots?

SIDOTI: I was in the parking lot.

COOPER: OK. So you could hear them outside. Even though you were outside the mall, you could hear the shots inside?

SIDOTI: Yes. They were three shots.

COOPER: Could you tell...

SIDOTI: And all of a sudden, you see people running out, and the cops were pushing everybody back.

COOPER: Could you tell where the shots -- there have been a lot of reports of the shots being somewhere in the area of Nordstrom's, whether it was inside or outside the Nordstrom's inside the mall. To your knowledge, from where you heard the shots, do you know where they emanated from?

SIDOTI: I mean, I heard the shots. Many people are saying that it was from Nordstrom. Many people are saying he was inside Nordstrom. But I heard the shots, and I was in the parking lot right by Nordstrom.

COOPER: How are you doing in this? How are you holding up?

SIDOTI: How am I doing?

COOPER: How are you holding up?

SIDOTI: I'm good. I'm good.

COOPER: What's the scene like outside right now? I mean, it looks like, obviously, there's a heavy police presence. The mall is in lockdown. A number of people have been outside from inside the mall. SWAT teams are going through the mall. How many -- I mean, how many law enforcement personnel are you seeing outside? SIDOTI: I mean, you could see there's millions of cops outside. Also, the squad team just came in. So there's also a helicopter on top with lights trying to look from -- look from above. It's crazy.

COOPER: Shawnna, I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. I'm glad you -- you were outside. I'm glad you're safe. Thank you.

SIDOTI: Thank you.

COOPER: I want to bring in Kevin Flanagan, a former detective with the New York City Police Department, now with Ryden (ph) Security and Investigations.

Clear -- it's not clear right now the status of this alleged shooter. It's not clear if he is in custody. It's not clear if he's still on the loose and being searched for by police.

KEVIN FLANAGAN, FORMER DETECTIVE, NYPD: It appears we saw emergency service, the SWAT tacking up, that they were going in. So I'm going to assume that they're going to start a systematic shutdown. They'll isolate, secure, and evacuate, and proceed on a search pattern in through the mall.

But this is huge; this is a huge place. Imagine somebody trying to hide in a clothing rack or taking shelter in a particular location to have a sniper's view of oncoming officers.

COOPER: These are our first aerial images, obviously. And you can see the heavy police presence. You also see police vehicles kind of spread all throughout the mall at different points, and some larger -- it looked like kind of larger tactical vehicles or perhaps ambulances also on the scene, though there have been report -- no reports right now, and New Jersey State Police putting out a report about five or ten minutes ago, saying no reports of any injuries at this point but that the -- the shooter was firing at security cameras.

Again, an early report from the New York State -- State Police.

In an incident like this, Kevin, is command and control -- who's in command? Who's in control? Who's heading an operation like this?

FLANAGAN: It probably has now transitioned that the New Jersey State Police are on the scene, that the state police would be taking -- taking control here. They would probably have the greatest assets and ability to come with, you know, special weapons to come into the facility.

COOPER: You have, obviously, though, a number of different law enforcement agencies. We see a sheriff's department over there, Bergen County. We're told the Bergen County SWAT Team and Paramus police are also responding on the scene. So you -- something like this, calls go out, you have as many people responding as possible.

FLANAGAN: Correct. And now they would have set up a temporary headquarters at some point with representatives from each one of the agencies. If they have more modern radios, they're all switching over to the same frequency and kind of operating with the same instruction.

But you know, you showed some of the police cars in the parking lot. I'm sure now they're searching the cars that are parked. There's probably cameras on the poles that they're starting to review video, as well, trying to backtrack when he came into the mall from a particular time to see if they can identify a vehicle and start to attempt to identify who the person may be.

COOPER: It is one of those concerns when you have people inside the mall and then they are evacuating people out of the mall. You obviously do not want the shooter to be able to blend in with people who are evacuating.

FLANAGAN: Now, and that point was exactly what was made by the young woman that called before. That they were checked. They were frisked by police before they were allowed to leave. And I'm sure that they checked to see if there was any garments or anything that was consistent with what the early reports are of what the shooter may have been wearing.

COOPER: We're told right now by county executives they believe the shooter is still inside the mall. This is the first time we're getting word, again from county executives. They believe the shooter is still inside the mall. They're searching the mall with canine units, which is also verified by one of our callers, one of our eyewitnesses heard, as well. They are obviously searching store by store looking for -- looking for the gunman.

We've had one eyewitness -- one person who called in, a young woman who right now -- as of 15 minutes ago had barricaded herself along with others inside a store. We're not telling, obviously saying which store. She said she actually saw the shooter, believes he was dressed in black, possibly -- and I say possibly. Again, she was a -- she got a quick glimpse of him before running to hide but believes in some sort of tactical vest or bulletproof vest.

But again, that is -- that we cannot confirm at this point.

But again, the headline right now, the shooter, according to county executives, believed to still be inside that mall.

Now this began at 9:20 or so. Multiple eyewitnesses and witnesses who heard the shots tell us the shots began to ring out around 9:20. We've had multiple different reports. People have said anywhere from they heard four shots to they heard eight to nine shots.

A number of eyewitnesses, though they differ on the number of shots, have said that there were -- it was not shots in rapid -- in rapid sequence. That there were often, 15, 20, maybe 30 seconds in between some of the shots.

We just saw, looks like some people -- obviously, law enforcement personnel going around the perimeter of the mall. We've heard multiple reports of people being brought outside the mall.

But there are still a large number of people, it seems -- and certainly, we have talked to three or four of them -- who are still hiding, hunkered down in various stores. They've locked down their stores to the best they can and they are -- they are kind of gathered together and just waiting for police to come store by store, very methodically and trying to find not only the shooter but trying to evacuate as many people as possible from what is a very large -- I mean, you see that picture right there, Kevin. You see that map from the Google Images. And the size of this thing is it's quite large.

FLANAGAN: Absolutely. And to that point, they have to cover all exits and entrances on all sides and prevent anybody else from exiting or going back in. You know, this is a huge undertaking here.

You have uniformed police officers who are wearing their standard Kevlar vests that will ultimately be pulled back once the emergency service and the SWAT guys get in and start doing their searches. The uniformed cops will then fill in behind them to security frozen and cleared areas.

COOPER: And as we said, we see police cars really spread out all throughout this parking lot. And to your point, they want to make sure that, if there is a vehicle that this shooter brought in, that they find that vehicle.

FLANAGAN: Yes. Most of the big malls now have license plate readers on their cameras, and these images are captured. It's just a matter of how quickly they'll be able to retrace the video of the shooter inside the mall if they have the access to the security room right now.

COOPER: Right. That would obviously be one of the top priorities for some law enforcement personnel: to get access to the video cameras, which apparently, the shooter was trying to eliminate.

We talked to one young man who works in one of the stores who was hiding out in the stores, who said that there -- there are a lot of video cameras all throughout the mall. So there's certainly a lot of cameras to check. And that might give them a sense of where the shooter went.

Because all the eyewitnesses so far that we have talked to and all those who just simply heard the shots near to where their locations were have told us it all seemed to emanate from the area around the Nordstrom's. Even people who were outside the Nordstrom's in the parking lot heard shots from inside the Nordstrom's. Again, whether those occurred actually directly inside the store or kind of inside the mall just outside the entrance -- the inner entrance to the Nordstrom's is unclear.

But a number of eyewitnesses have tried to explain kind of what that area inside the mall but in the mall entrance to the Nordstrom's is sort of an area where people would congregate, an area where there are places to sit, some places to eat nearby, as well. So certainly a lot of areas for folks to go through and a very stressful situation for, obviously for law enforcement personnel.

FLANAGAN: For law enforcement and frankly for the employees in the stores. I -- you can't not comment. They have all been locked down, taking care of their employees. When they have been instructed, they're rounding up their fellow employees and customers and getting them out as quickly as possible. They all should be commended, frankly.

COOPER: Yes. This is an incident, by the way, which began around 9:20 and has been going on now for more than an hour and almost 30 minutes. So there's a lot of very -- obviously, it's a very stressful situation, a very kinetic situation still ongoing inside that mall. That's the last word we have from authorities. The county executives say they believe the shooter is still inside the mall somewhere. Exact location and status unknown.

We're going to take a short break, and our breaking news coverage of this incident continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage -- I'm Anderson Cooper -- of this breaking situation in New Jersey. The Paramus mall. I want to bring everyone up to date on the situation that's happening in the shopping mall outside of Newark.

Reports of a shooter loose inside the Garden State Plaza about 25 minutes west of the island of Manhattan. Bergen County, New Jersey, SWAT now conducting a store-by-store sweep. Mall workers, some of whom barricaded themselves inside, tell us -- we've talked to a number of them over the last hour and a half, told us the shots began to ring out at around 9:20 or so Eastern Time. That's approximately.

A slow sequence of firing, anywhere from four to eight shots, according to different eyewitnesses. The number varies from witness to witness, as is -- you might expect with eyewitnesses in a stressful situation like this. The one commonalty, though, among all those eyewitnesses or some of those you just heard the shots but didn't see the alleged shooter is that the shots were not in rapid succession. There would be one shot and then a gap of anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds and then another shot.

State police saying they had received reports the gunman was shooting at security cameras. They have no reports -- this was as of, I'd estimate about 20 minutes ago, reports of any injuries or fatalities. We do not know the shooter, if the shooter was firing at people.

Nic Robertson is on the scene. He joins us now. Nic, obviously a very chaotic scene and it's very early in the early minutes in an hour and a half after this began.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it is. What we're hearing from police now is that the shooter may have left the building. It's not clear if that's the case. Certainly, I'm looking at some of the police cars around me here. They're leaving. Yet as some leave, others are arriving. It is very much, as you said, a developing situation.

I'm joined here by Lisa and Erin. They were on their way into Nordstrom's at the mall here when this incident happened. Tell me, Lisa, what did you see? What did you hear?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We heard a few shots. But we weren't sure what it was at first. And then everybody started running, and we thought it was a joke. And then the security started yelling when we were, like, almost into Nordstrom.

ROBERTSON: Erin, you're going in. You're seeing people running out. What are you thinking?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't know what was going on. I actually thought it was a joke at first. Because it was like five kids and then all of a sudden, it was just like a huge crowd of people, and we were surrounded.

ROBERTSON: And then you realized it was for real? What then?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, the mall cops came running past us, screaming "Shots fired" and they were telling everyone, "Run, run, run."

ROBERTSON: Could you see anyone? Could you see a shooter?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I just wanted to get out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, we were just trying to get out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

ROBERTSON: So what happened? You realize you were going against the crowd; everyone is running out. Security are telling you shots fired. What was your reaction? What did you do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get out. Run out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Turn around and just started running.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just started running out towards the door.

ROBERTSON: When you got outside what happened?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then all the police started showing up. It was within seconds that they showed up. The emergency lights were going on. And then we just -- they just ushered us around the mall.

ROBERTSON: So the mall security, did they tell you anything? Did they give you any information so far?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They didn't tell us anything.

ROBERTSON: And from what you could see, as you were running out, could you see were there people still in stores? Were there still people working in the stores?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were still -- Some of them locked themselves inside the stores.

ROBERTSON: And as far as you know, you've been here all this time, have you seen the store workers come out, do you know?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I haven't seen -- well, I mean, people are all over the place. But as far as store workers I have no idea. They were closing up like nothing was going on, and everyone was just running.

ROBERTSON: So this mall closes around about 10 p.m.? You were coming in just around 9:20, that sort of time?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At about 9:15 we were leaving the food court, and we decided to get coffee. And that's what held us up or else we probably would have been inside Nordstrom's at the time. Because we were like right there.

ROBERTSON: How do you feel about that now, thinking you could have been in the middle of this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thankful she wanted coffee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, exactly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for wanting coffee.

ROBERTSON: Lisa, Erin, thank you very much indeed. Both of you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

ROBERTSON: Anderson, it is still a developing situation. What we know from the police at the moment is that the shooter may have left. It's not clear. We don't know. We understand the buildings and the stores inside the mall are being swept right now. More details we don't have. As far as we know so far, though, there are no casualties reported, Anderson.

COOPER: OK. This is obviously, I think, the most important thing to stress out of all this right now just is, whether or not the shooter is still inside the mall or whether the shooter has left the mall. And again the frank answer is we do not know. And what you're hearing from police, they do not know either.

ROBERTSON: Anderson, that's correct at the moment. It's a very fluid situation. It's unclear. Even as I was arriving here a few minutes ago, there was still many police cars moving into this area, taking up positions. It seems that the security perimeter around this area that's been put in place by mall security people is being pushed back further and further. And on the basis of what, we don't know.

But at the moment the focus is still inside the mall. What's going on precisely, very unclear at the moment. COOPER: Yes, and Nic, you know, I spoke to -- or really -- probably at the top of the 10 p.m. hour I spoke to a number of people, three or four people, who had barricaded themselves into the stores where they were working. Some of them have other store employees with them. Some of them have customers with them. Without giving their exact location, obviously, we believe some of those people are still inside the mall, still inside their stores.

We're going to talk to one of them, a young woman that we talked to about an hour ago. She, as I understand it, is still inside the mall. We're going to talk to her for an update in just a couple of minutes once we reestablish contact with her.

Bergen County officials, the last we heard there were no -- no -- there was no information, frankly, about whether anybody had actually been shot by this -- by this alleged gunman. There had been a report from the New Jersey State Police the gunman had fired at security cameras, which obviously would make it harder for police to try to figure out where this gunman is now or has gone. But there are, according to at least one eyewitness, a number -- a large number of security cameras all throughout this mall. This is a very well-known mall, well-regarded mall. That's something, clearly, they are going to be looking at very carefully, trying to look at as many cameras as possible to try figure out exactly where -- where this gunman may have gone.

We have reporters, obviously, Nic Robertson on the scene, Susan Candiotti also heading toward the scene. This is -- and as Nic said, it appears as if the security perimeter has been pushed out just to -- as a matter of caution to try to figure out where exactly this gunman is right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

COOPER: And good evening. Welcome to the top of the hour. We have breaking news at the top of the hour. Shots fired at a major American mall, the Garden State Plaza, about 25 minutes west of Manhattan. Bergen County, New Jersey SWAT now conducting a store-by- store sweep. Multiple law-enforcement agencies involved. Mall workers, some of whom barricaded themselves inside, tell us the shots began to ring out at about 9:20 Eastern Time. A slow sequence of firing, 15 to 20 to 30 seconds in between each shot. The number of shots varying from witness to witness. We can't give you an exact number of shots fired. No reports as of yet of any injuries. That's the good news.

One report from CNN's Nic Robertson is that the gunman may have left the mall. The bottom line, though, on that, and I want to stress that we just do not know where this gunman is.