3 men taken into custody following disturbance at Independence Center

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — A possible shooter situation sent people into panic mode at the Independence Center Sunday afternoon.

One family who was inside the mall ran for their lives after being warned multiple people had guns in the food court.

Turns out, they were toy guns. Police said three men were taken into custody.

“This is foolishness and it simply has got to stop,” Traycie Williams said.

Williams and his 7-year-old son were tackling the ropes course when their visit was cut short because of a possible shooter in the mall.

“It’s panic. It’s sheer terror,” Williams said, “and we were having a good time playing and all of a sudden, you know, he was on the course and I was just standing there by him and an employee ran up and grabbed him off of the course and took off running saying something about a possible shooting.”

He struggled getting his and his son’s harnesses off.

Then, Williams picked up his son, jumped over a bench and ran out to see police rushing the food court and at least one man waving a large black gun in the air.

“I finally saw a big black gun with the orange thing on the tip and then you start saying what’s going on,” Williams said.

Investigators said no real guns were found and no shots were fired.

The panic, however, was real.

“It’s very scary,” Shopper Michelle Stutzman said.

“What’s the point behind doing something like that anyway?” Patrick Stutzman said. “I don’t see how anything can be accomplished by scaring someone with a toy gun, let alone a real one.”

Michelle agreed, “Yeah, you could get shot and then you’d lose your life and then that would be pointless you know.”

The scare is on the heels of multiple violent situations at the Independence Center — including two shootings in the last two weeks. One inside, the second outside.

Police extended a 3 p.m. teen curfew to everyday to combat part of the problem.

As someone who is affected by this restriction, 14-year-old Ibeth Ramirez said it is disappointing.

“It’s kind of ruining the fun for us cause we kind of want to come here without our parents and the fact that they’re changing the rules it’s kind of like disappointing,” Ramirez said.

Independence Mayor Eileen Weir said in a statement to FOX4:

“The City of Independence has increased the presence of our police officers in the area which has allowed us to respond to incidents in the 39th Street corridor faster. We are partnering directly with the management and ownership of the mall to address the ongoing issues. Today’s response showed this collaboration in action.

The Independence Center ownership is working to increase their on-site security presence with increased personnel, technology, and dispatching capabilities. Our police department is providing input into these efforts.  

We will continue conversations with business owners, citizens, and community groups to ensure our citizens and visitors feel safe in this important area of our community. We are working on a business summit to facilitate these conversations at this time.”

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