By Jim Leggate and Noah Cohen
A 20-year-old Bergen County man who opened fire at the Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus Monday night was found dead early Tuesday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.
Police found the body of Richard Shoop, of Teaneck, in a mall storage area around 3:20 a.m. after heavily-armed police teams scoured the massive complex for several hours, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said shortly after 4 a.m.
Shoop entered the mall with a .22 caliber rifle modified to look similar to an AK-47, Molinelli said. The rifle was stolen from Shoop's brother, who legally owned it, the prosecutor said.
“I do not believe Mr. Shoop thought he would come out of this alive," Molinelli told reporters at a briefing.
Thousands of people evacuated the mall after Shoop, dressed in black and wearing a motorcycle helmet, fired at least six rounds in a concourse area. An estimated 400 patrons hunkered down in locked stores after the shots rang out, Molinelli said.
There were no reports of injuries. At least 500 police officers from dozens of local, state and county agencies and the FBI responded to the mall, which remained closed Tuesday.
Authorities raided Shoop’s family home on Emerson Avenue in Teaneck around 1 a.m. Molinelli said Shoop left a note, but did not immediately describe what it said. Shoop's family had assisted police and led them to believe he was the shooter, according to Molinelli.
Although Shoop’s motive remained unclear, the prosecutor said Shoop, who grew up in Washington Township, had a history of drug use and was known to local police. Molinelli said it appeared that Shoop had not planned to harm anyone.
A manager at the Teaneck pizzeria where Shoop worked for the past three years said Shoop had recently become more withdrawn, and that he failed to show up for work on Friday.
"We didnt know what was going, he just didn't show up," said Robert Gega, a manager at Victor's Pizza. " He was a great worker."
Witnesses detailed a chaotic scene in which they took cover in stores between bursts of gunfire.
Anthea Brown, 26, who works at Talbots, said she looked the gunman in the eyes.
"I just froze," Brown said. "I didn't know what to think. He just looked at me and kept on moving."
Clarice Forbes, of Paterson, who also works at Talbots, said the man walked by the store while shooting a rifle into air.
“It was very, very terrifying. Very scary,” Forbes said.
Alaa Hegazi, a contractor working in the mall, said the shooter told him, “I don’t want to shoot anyone here, just let me go."