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New Jersey mall evacuated, reports of shots unfounded: officials

NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - Police evacuated the Westfield Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus, New Jersey on Saturday, following a car fire and reports of gunfire, but authorities were unable to confirm any shots were fired at the shopping center where a gunman killed himself last year, officials said.

Paramus Mayor Richard LaBarbiera said on social media website Facebook that there had been a car fire at the mall, which was followed by reports of shots heard in the same area.

"As of this time, there has been no confirmation of any gunfire or shots. The investigation is ongoing," he said.

New Jersey State Police who responded to the incident said earlier on Twitter that they were checking to determine whether other noises might have been mistaken for gunfire.

Police dispatchers from local police departments said officers had surrounded the mall, which was evacuated as a precaution.

The Westfield Garden State Plaza Mall was the site of a shooting in November, when 20-year-old Richard Shoop fired at least six rounds into the air from a modified rifle before turning the gun on himself.

Shoop was found dead in a back area of the shopping center, which is some 20 miles north of Newark.

(Reporting by David Jones, Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis, Editing by Chris Michaud and Clarence Fernandez)

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