An already chaotic day at Penn Station turned dangerous Friday night after false reports of a shooting caused people to flee the building, leaving their suitcases and other belongings behind. The stampede that followed caused at least 16 injuries.
"Folks were screaming. I saw people fall to the ground; folks jumping over chairs," Natalie Tucker, who was in the Amtrak waiting room at the time, told Gothamist. "I ran into something but didn't take the time to figure out what it was. A woman next to me hurt her hand. It was mass hysteria."
According to law enforcement officials, multiple reports of the shooting were unfounded. A statement released by Amtrak notes that "an individual was subdued with a Taser by Amtrak Police inside New York Penn Station this evening and is now in police custody."
Amtrak PD placed 2 people into custody for disobeying orders at Penn Station. Taser was used on 1 during incident. NYSP on scene.
— MTA (@MTA) April 14, 2017
During a briefing Friday night, Chief Bill Morris of Manhattan South said that the NYPD received dozens of calls about shots fired around Penn Station at around 6:30 p.m., but quickly determined the taser was likely the source of the perceived gunshots.
FDNY Battalion Chief Tom Currao said that the fire department, which was already on hand due to a stalled NJ Transit train, is currently treating 16 people for non-life-threatening injuries.
Amid the initial chaos, reports of an active shooter spread outside of Penn Station, causing confusion in the area surrounding Herald Square. According to Betsy Weber, who was shopping at Macy's during the panic, shoppers were instructed to calmly evacuate the building.
"On the streets I heard every reason why we were evacuated from fire, bomb, shooting, terrorism, taser but no credible info," Weber said. “Really—there was so much false info floating around. I never heard anyone say they saw anything for themselves.”
— Natalie G Tucker (@Nat_Tuck) April 14, 2017
— Sky Dylan-Robbins (@skydylanrobbins) April 14, 2017
Jitters are so high that apparently there was spontaneous stampede in Penn Station NYC for no apparent cause. pic.twitter.com/uVG70o4JlX
— #CalExit NaphiSoc (@NaphiSoc) April 14, 2017
— Lucid Hurricane™✘ (@Forever_Lucid) April 14, 2017
Almost got trampled in Penn Station #NYC! Mass hysteria after a perp was tased. No 'shots fired'. Danger: panicked mob.
— Matt Stone (@MattStone) April 14, 2017
Oy, Penn Station. pic.twitter.com/3uEdFa1bmo
— Kate Hinds (@katehinds) April 14, 2017
Update, April 17, 2017: The suspect detained by Amtrak police is currently hospitalized for psychological evaluation, according to Amtrak spokesman Mike Tolbert, who added, "The APD will be seeking to arrest the suspect upon his discharge from the hospital."
Additional reporting by Jen Chung