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Criminal probe into celebrity appearance that led to false ‘active shooter’ report at Cielo Vista Mall

UPDATE, April 26: El Paso police said Monday a criminal investigation is underway into panic about an "active shooter" over the weekend at the Cielo Vista Mall that was triggered by the appearance of a skateboarder who has gained celebrity notoriety on social media.

False word spread through the crowd gathered to see Danny Duncan about an "active shooter" at the mall - drawing a major response from police and paramedics, and stirring up gruesome remembrances of the nearby Aug. 3, 2019 Cielo Vista Walmart mass shooting tragedy.

"Anyone that causes such an emergency response can face up to felony charges of Terroristic Threat," said a police statement issued Monday about their investigation.

Duncan's manager, Stefan Toler, in a weekend phone call to ABC-7, had denied any responsibility on the part of Duncan or his entourage in causing the panic over bogus shooting reports.

ORIGINAL REPORT, April 24: EL PASO, Texas -- El Paso police said no shots were fired and there was no active shooter situation at the Cielo Vista Mall on Saturday afternoon. Officials indicated a celebrity sighting apparently led to a "mad rush" of mall patrons and false reports of a shooter.

A call about a shooting at the mall came into authorities at 3:56 p.m., according to a fire department dispatcher, and multiple EMS units responded. But a short time later police tweeted: "No active shooter, no shots fired."

In a statement, police said "apparently a celebrity at the mall caused of a rush of persons and rumor spread of shots fired... if there are injuries (it's) only due to (the) mad rush." Later, a police spokesperson confirmed there were no injuries.

Police said they cleared an area of the mall purely as a precaution following the incident, but it had fully reopened by Saturday evening. Two people initially detained by officers were quickly determined to be Good Samaritans and were released from custody, police said.

Authorities didn't immediately identify the celebrity, but police scanner traffic indicated it was believed to be a skateboarder made famous on YouTube. Skateboarder Danny Duncan had earlier posted a video on his Instagram account that showed him with a hoard of fans in the mall parking lot.

After the incident, Duncan tweeted a denial of allegations that he intentionally staged "a prank" at the mall that led to the chaos. He wrote: "For context, people are saying I did a prank where we yelled there was a shooter in the mall. Which is something I’d never do... I went to Zumiez in the mall to buy shirts for my fans. There was no prank at all going on. I was just visiting El Paso and hanging out with my supporters."

Duncan's manager, Stefan Toler, in a phone call to ABC-7 about the incident repeated the denial of any wrongdoing on the part of Duncan or his entourage: "There was no prank going on, nothing on our end."

Duncan maintained mall security was with him throughout his visit, although ABC-7 could not immediately confirm that fact. A police spokesperson told reporters that "the celebrity" had left the mall before officers had a chance to speak with him, adding that some things about what transpired were still unclear and the incident remained under investigation.

Multiple viewers called ABC-7 as the afternoon's events unfolded, with one viewer who claimed to be inside the mall at the time saying people could be seen running out of the building amidst the chaos.

A video taken by'Fit Fam El Paso' showed what it described as "the moment that a crowd surrounding Danny Duncan outside of Zumiez in Cielo Vista inadvertently caused a mass panic." You can view it in the video player below.

Article Topic Follows: El Paso

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Jim Parker

Jim Parker is the former Director of Digital Content for ABC-7.

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Kate Bieri

Kate Bieri is a former ABC-7 New Mexico Mobile Newsroom reporter and weekend evening newscast anchor.


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