SUNRISE, Fla. – Shoppers evacuated the Sawgrass Mills mall Sunday after someone armed with a knife shoplifted from one of the stores, authorities said.
"Sunrise Police Department are not working an active shooter at Sawgrass Mills Mall. The incident was a shoplifting where the suspect had a knife," the Sunrise Police Department said on Twitter.
After about an hour, police had finished a search of the mall and shoppers were allowed to return.
The incident happened just after 2:30 p.m. near the food court, witnesses said. Some people inside the mall thought they heard gunshots and panicked.
"My mom and I were shopping and heard people yell, 'Active shooter.' We sprinted out through a back door. I've never been so terrified in my life," Sara Perlman said on Twitter.
A photo posted on Twitter shows people hiding in the back room of the H&M store.
Among the people caught in the chaos was retired Lt. Col. Victor Correa, who was in the Pentagon on 9/11 when a plane hit the building. He ushered people to safety in the Pentagon and was ready to do the same on Sunday.
"I was trying to keep my kids calmed down first and telling them to calm down. We don't run with the masses, let's see what's happening," Correa said.
South Florida malls have been the site of several shooting scares in recent months. In December, a thief set off fireworks to distract employees of a jewelry store at Sawgrass Mills. People mistook the noise for gunshots and fled the mall. No one was hurt.