What began with panic-inducing reports of gunfire at New Jersey's largest mall on Monday night ended early Tuesday morning with police finding the body of the suspected gunman, a 20-year-old New Jersey man who appears to have taken his own life inside the complex. No one else was injured.
According to police, Richard Shoop entered the 2.2 million-square-foot Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J., located about 15 miles northwest of Manhattan, shortly before closing time. Dressed in black and wearing a motorcycle helmet, Shoop allegedly fired six shots from a .22-caliber assault-style rifle, sending customers and employees rushing for cover and prompting a massive police response to the scene. Hours later, authorities found Shoop's body in a non-retail area of the mall where construction materials were being stored. No one else had been injured, something police suggested Tuesday morning was how Shoop had planned it, via NJ.com:
[Bergen County Prosecutor John] Molinelli identified the suspect as Richard Shoop, 20, of Teaneck, who he called a known drug abuser who may have had a criminal record and was unemployed. A house in Teaneck believed to be his home was raided overnight by police and the FBI. But cell phone records suggested the suspect never left the mall.
According to Molinelli, Shoop had gone to the mall with the intention of dying, either through suicide or being shot by police. He said they did not believe Shoop had any intention to hurt anyone else, noting that several witnesses said he had the opportunity to kill them, but that he never raised his rifle against them. "The main motive for what he did tonight was suicide, whether self-inflicted or suicide-by-cop," he said.
Police said the weapon, which was modified to look like an AK-47 assault rifle, was legally owned by Shoop's brother, and that the 20-year-old had taken it without permission. Authorities have found no record of Shoop being employed at the mall, and are still trying to piece together why he went there.
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