Gunman kills himself after opening fire in New Jersey mall


By Barbara Goldberg

PARAMUS, N.J., Nov 4 (Reuters) - A gunman opened fire in acrowded New Jersey mall late on Monday before killing himself,officials said, sparking a mass evacuation of the complex bypolice who did not realise he was dead for several hours.

The man shot at least six rounds from a modified rifleseemingly at random and without hitting anyone, before turningthe gun on himself in a back area of the mall, Bergen CountyProsecutor John Molinelli told a news conference early onTuesday.

Authorities named the dead man as 20-year-old Richard Shoopand said he had a history of drug abuse. Officials found hisbody in the Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus at around3:20 a.m. local time (0820 GMT).

Police backed by dozens of cruisers had earlier evacuatedthousands of people from the mall and launched a manhunt aftershoppers reported hearing gunshots sometime after 9 p.m, saidChief of Staff at Bergen County Jeanne Baratta.

Najee Waters, 19, of East Rutherford, New Jersey, was at hissales job at an H&M clothing store when he heard what soundedlike two shots ring out.

"It was frantic. Absolutely chaos," said Waters, whofollowed a practiced store emergency plan and rushed to a breakroom at the back of the store, where about a dozen workersgathered before dashing out to the parking lot. About 25customers were in the store at the time.

The shooting occurred two months after a group of alQaeda-linked militants launched an attack on a mall in Nairobithat killed 67 people.

The Garden State Plaza mall, owned by Australia's WestfieldGroup, is one of five large malls in Paramus, locatedabout 20 miles northwest of New York City and known as a keydestination for shoppers.

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