PORT RICHEY, Fla. (WFLA) – Some Tampa Bay shoppers got the scare of a lifetime, thinking they were about to become victims of the next mass shooting.
It happened at Gulfview Square Mall in Port Richey.
Witnesses describe the scene as “frantic” and “chaotic” as people ran full-speed to the exit when they thought they heard gunfire.
Turns out, it was a robbery in progress. The sound they heard was a sledgehammer crashing through glass as a masked man grabbed jewelry from Zales.
The incident took place just before 1:00 p.m.
A nearby maintenance worker saw what was happening and jumped into action.
“People behind me started yelling, an active shooter, people yelling that made chaos (break) out,” said the 52-year-old mall employee. “I didn’t want him to get away.”
The man said he acted on instinct. No hesitation, no fear.
“All over our country, people are getting shot. Police are getting shot. So many times, people just get out their cell phones and record video. I knew I had to do something,” he told 8 on your Side. “I had to do something.”
In the end, it was this man’s bravery and courage that cracked the case. He was able to identify the suspect and provide detectives with the information they needed to make an arrest – in just four short hours.
Pasco investigators are currently interviewing the man in custody.
The employee says he came face to face with the guy in the getaway car and got a good look at him and the license plate. He even locked eyes with the suspect at one point.
“I looked him straight in the eye and told him he was going to jail. Then, he shut the car door and took off,” he said. “I’d do it again. People need to stand up for what’s right.”