(TMU) — Mass hysteria and panic gripped New York City’s crowded Times Square on Tuesday night after multiple loud noises resembling gunshots sent tourists and local residents fleeing in multiple directions, fearing for their lives over the possibility of an active shooter.
However, the loud noises turned out to be a harmless backfiring motorcycle, according to the NYPD, WNBC reported.
Passing through #NYC’s #TimesSquare, 1hr after this sound sent 1000s running for their lives, in fear of another mass shooting. Accounts of people trampled, hiding in stores, separated from their families. Authorities confirm it was a motorcycle backfire. This is no way to live. pic.twitter.com/GU2zrJfUv5
— Andrew Hodge 🇺🇸 (@andruhodge) August 7, 2019
The incident comes as people across the United States deal with the raw nerves and emotional aftermath of the past weekend’s white supremacist massacre in El Paso, Texas, and the massacre that followed shortly afterward in Dayton, Ohio, which claimed a combined 31 lives.
The backfiring motorcycle was heard between 9:30 and 10 p.m. at the Crossroads of the World, causing many to flee in a frenzied state without so much as a backward glance to find out what exactly was causing the loud noises.
In various videos captured from the scene, groups are shown scattering across the crowded area. Witnesses described to local media how some people screamed and climbed over each other as they stampeded up Broadway.
Dylan Probert told local WABC:
“All of a sudden I heard this kind of muffled ‘pop’ and said, ‘What was that?’ and I looked over and there was a sea of people running.”
— Brian L. (@bleibforth) August 7, 2019
One pedestrian fell while running during the stampede, according to authorities, but that has been the only injury reported so far.
Shoppers at the Disney Store were herded into the rear of the retail space as a precaution, according to shoppers, in a clear sign that the store was prepared for any such mass incidents.
In a tweet, the NYPD’s Midtown North Precinct assured New Yorkers that there is “no #ActiveShooter in #TimesSquare. Motorcycles backfiring while passing through sounded like gunshots … Please don’t panic. The Times Square area is very safe!”
— Strangernbr1 (@strangernbr1) August 7, 2019