Photo courtesy of Artists & Fleas

Just after 4 p.m. today an irritant, possibly pepper spray, was released in The Strand Bookstore on Broadway and 12th. The bookstore was evacuated, and those who inhaled the irritant are currently being treated on the scene. An FDNY spokesperson told us that they received a call about the incident, with customers complaining of burning eyes and a cough.

No one is currently answering at The Strand, but we will update when we have more information.

A few customers promptly took to social media following the incident (below), and Laura Hetherington tells us:

"I walked into the store right as it was happening, and immediately started coughing as I passed through the front by the registers. A couple other people started coughing as well, and there was an odd smell and weight to the air, in addition to the area being slightly hazy to the eye. I didn't pay much mind to it, but as I continued to walk towards the back my coughing became more severe and I heard several people who had remained at the front start violently coughing and gasping for air, although there was no yelling or panic so everyone in the store was confused as to what was happening. It was not immediately or fully clear what the cause was. I waited at the back and heard a sales associate come back to us and say, 'Everyone stay at the back of the store, apparently someone used pepper spray by the registers.' We waited at the back and the sales associates were all sort of joking about it or talking about how random it was, just trying to figure out what was going on. About 7 minutes later the firemen came into the building and forced everyone to evacuate immediately, stopping all transactions that were taking place and ushering everyone out."

Here's a look at the scene just before 5 p.m.: