Late last evening, Twitter and Facebook came alive with reports of shots fired at the Cinemark Egyptian Cinemas at Arundel Mills Mall.
We found the first report of a shooting:
NIGGAS SHOOTING AT ARUNDEL MILLS !!!
— Chris Huie ⛄️ (@ItsThatKid_Huie) March 9, 2014
And it was quickly retweeted and shared by many.
And of course the speculation began.
By 10:38pm, the Anne Arundel County Police Department was alive on Twitter trying to quell the storm…
NO confirmation of shooting at #ArundelMills. Heavy Police presence related to call for shots fired. NO victims of gunshots. No (1/2)
evidence of shooting. (2/2)
But sometimes, the reports of the storm can overshadow the actual event. As Justin Fenton of the Baltimore Sun pointed out, the police were outnumbered.
— Justin Fenton (@justin_fenton) March 9, 2014
As of this writing, the @AACOPD tweet (above) had 125 re-tweets and the @FoxBaltimore tweet had been shared 293 times.
Fox 45 is hearing reports that there may have been a shooting at Arundel Mills Mall. Fox is headed to the scene, stay tuned for more info
— FOX Baltimore (@FOXBaltimore) March 9, 2014
And of course, it doesn’t help the police that @FoxBaltimore has 31,653 followers to their 10,085.
In the end, police have confirmed that the “shooting” was indeed not a shooting, but someone lighting off a type of fireworks inside the theater. While still illegal and potentially dangerous, thankfully it was not a shooting and the Fire Marshall’s office is investigating.
Many on Twitter were critical of the response (go on, search twitter for “Arundel Mills” and see) by police once the crowd recognized that it was not a shooting. However, we only need to remember January 25th, when two people were gunned down in the Columbia Mall less than fifteen miles away to realize that the police response to an unknown situation was wholly appropriate!
We also need to realize that social media is a terrific tool for instant news and feedback. Media entities can get photographs and first hand accounts of what is happening–but only if they are accurate. No one is without mistakes (and we have made our share as well), but this incident is a great example of verifying information before spreading it around. And if it is unverified, make sure you pass that tidbit along if possible.
Finally, if you are active on the social media channels, understand that the authorities (police, fire, public works, emergency preparedness, etc) are all very active here in the area as well and they will always be a valid source for you. The information may not be as immediate (or as misinformed) as the speculation, but once there is information to be had–they will be on it! The initial reports came in at 10:11pm and by 10:38pm–27 minutes later, the facts were in, but the genie had already been let out of the bottle.