CENTURY CITY, LOS ANGELES -- An arson and assault with a deadly weapon suspect is being sought by police in connection with a major scare at a Century City mall that led to a large evacuation on Friday.
The evacuation at Westfield Century City was lifted at about 5:30 p.m. after a report of a man with a gun and a suspicious package prompted a panic among shoppers and mall employees.
After an hourslong investigation, Los Angeles police said there was no evidence of a shooting, and bomb squad officials determined a suspicious box at the scene was not an explosive.
Nobody was immediately detained or arrested but there was suspicion an individual may have lit the box on fire. Investigators said there were no injuries reported.
It all started shortly before 1 p.m. Los Angeles police said that during the search for a reported man with a gun, officers were directed to a suspicious box inside the Amazon Store. Video from AIR7 HD showed smoke coming from the Amazon Store. It's unclear what was inside the box.
The box began to smoke when an individual described by witnesses as a man with a green bandanna and bushy hair left the Amazon store. Authorities were looking at surveillance video to determine whether that person lit the package on fire.
The LAPD later tweeted a photo Friday night of what they described as the arson and assault with a deadly weapon suspect. He remains on the run and is described as possibly Hispanic or Asian, 20-25 years old, 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall and 130-150 pounds. He is to be considered armed and dangerous, police said.
At about 2:30 p.m. LAPD urged those sheltering in place to remain calm and exit the location. Images sent to the Eyewitness Newsroom showed customers sheltering in place inside the H&M basement. After being stuck in there for about two hours, they were later evacuated.
All available police resources were sent to the mall, including the bomb squad, during the incident.
Authorities cleared out the mall safely. Many shoppers and employees were escorted out the nearest exit. Nearby Beverly Hills High School was placed on lockdown as a precaution due to incident, the Beverly Hills Police Department said.
It was a scary situation for many people.
"I had just clocked into work and then I saw my co-workers running, and he said, 'Drop everything and run,' and we just ran out the door. As we were running out the door, we heard a shot, and then I saw security, and mall security said just keep running, keep going," said mall employee Gisell Lopez.
Former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum was at the mall and stuck inside for hours. He live-tweeted during the incident and shared a video after getting out.
"It made me emotional to think about the fact that my three kids and many kids out there are being trained on these drills every day at our schools, and we as a society have become so desensitized that we could even utter the words and thinking that you're fleeing from a possible shooter -- that this is normal. It's not normal, it's not OK," he said.
Police set up a perimeter around the mall and shut down Santa Monica Boulevard due to the investigation. It has since been reopened.