UPDATE: An anxious carnival-goer triggered what became a false report of shots fired at a police-sponsored anti-drug event in Paramus over the weekend.
Two men -- one of them an off-duty police officer -- got into an argument around 7 p.m. Saturday at the L.E.A.D. carnival on the grounds of the Westfield Garden State Plaza off Route 17, a source with direct knowledge of the incident told Daily Voice.
Witnesses said punches were thrown.
Someone then noticed that the officer was armed, heard balloons popping from a water game and called 911 to report shots fired, he said.
Several other patrons panicked and ran, alarming other carnival-goers, witnesses said. Soon, there was a throng of people bolting for the exits.
Mariom Ruiz said she "heard words being exchanged and saw the first punch."
She didn't see a gun, though.
"A Caucasian couple who had a small child (being carried) walked around and appeared again by the right side of [the] funnel cake stand," Ruiz said. "The other party (African American) was standing to the left of the ordering window of the stand.
"Once visual contact was made more words were exchanged. A guy from the other party walked towards the Caucasian couple and the fight broke out. I had my kids with me so I began to walk away. Soon after people began to run towards the exit.
"The cops ambushed the spot near the kids rides and funnel cake stand," Ruiz said. "Everyone started running towards the gates. I saw 2 young kids being held by cops. They became lost amongst the chaos."
Daniella Alicia said she and her 5-year-old daughter "almost got trampled. It was absolutely insane! Everyone running towards the exit at the same time - fence broken down to get out."
"Even the staff members were telling everybody to get outta there," Joey Melendez added. "There were parents throwing there kids over the fence telling them to run."
Police officers who already were at the event were quickly joined by others who rushed to the scene. Order was quickly restored.
"There were no shots fired, no one was hurt, there was no stampede," a knowledgeable law enforcement source said. "It was over in minutes."
Police Chief Kenneth Ehrenberg confirmed Monday that no one was arrested or harmed but that an investigation was continuing into the alleged dispute.
L.E.A.D. (Law Enforcement Against Drugs & Violence) is a charitable law enforcement-related organization that looks to demonstrate the health, social, legal and short-term consequences of using tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, inhalants or any other illegal drug.
Police seek to become role models while building trusting and supportive relationships with youngsters and their families.
The L.E.A.D. carnival in Paramus resumes this Wednesday through Sunday (June 9-13) and then again June 16-20.
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