Crowds Panic and Run After Motorcycle Backfire in Times Square Is Mistaken for Gunfire

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The sound of motorcycles backfiring caused panic in New York City’s Times Square on Tuesday night, just days after mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, killed at least 31 people over the weekend.

According to CBS New York, the panic began around 10 p.m. EST. Footage of the area shared by construction firm The Daniels Group shows a large crowd of people running down the streets of Times Square.

The New York Police Department soon cleared up the confusion on social media.

“There is no #ActiveShooter in #TimesSquare,” the NYPD Midtown North said on Twitter just after 10 p.m. “Motorcycles backfiring while passing through sounded like gun shots. We are recieving multiple 911 calls. Please don’t panic. The Times Square area is very safe!”

“Please be advised that all is safe and secure in #timessquare,” the NYPD Midtown South added in a separate tweet. “All reports of suspicious sounds were due to a large group of [motorcycles] cruising through the area on this nice evening.”

The panic also affected nearby Broadway shows, including the play To Kill a Mockingbird, as people reportedly attempted to get inside the theater to find safety.

“Stopped our show tonight due to a motorcycle backfire that was mistaken for a bomb or a shooting,” Mockingbird cast member Gideon Glick wrote on Twitter. “Screaming civilians tried to storm our theater for safety. The audience started screaming and the cast fled the stage. This is the world we live in. This cannot be our world.”

“Crouched on the floor of the Shubert Theatre during an astounding performance of Mockingbird fearing for my life,” actress Merle Dandridge, who was in the audience of the play, wrote. “This is our world now. Open panic and ready for life shots. I’m still shaking and scared for our country.”

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According to CBS New York, several pedestrians were reportedly injured during the panic, though none of the wounds are said to be life-threatening. Most of the injuries include bumps, bruises, and lacerations, the outlet reported.

Mockingbird cast member Celia Keenan-Bolger also described the night’s events on Twitter.

“This was terrifying for the audience who heard screaming & banging on the doors, so they hid or ran & tried to flee. It was terrifying for us because we didn’t know what was happening or what to do,” she wrote.

Though it turned out to be a false alarm, the actress said, All I can think about are the young people who’ve had to go through the actual thing.”

“The trauma and fear that they have had to endure and what something like that does to a young person’s brain,” she continued. “We cannot go on like this.”

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