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Suspected Shoplifter Mistaken For Gunman At Union Walmart

Union police released this photo of a man suspected of shoplifting a toy gun at a Walmart and sparking fears of a shooter Thursday morning.
Union police released this photo of a man suspected of shoplifting a toy gun at a Walmart and sparking fears of a shooter Thursday morning. Photo Credit: Union police

A Walmart in Union was evacuated Thursday morning following a report that a man with a gun had been spotted there, police said.

Police later determined, however, that there had been no threat.

** UPDATE: A 20-year-old Newark man who caused a stir at a local Walmart turned himself into police **

A woman called police shortly before 11 a.m. and said she'd seen a man in a black mask toting a black gun at the Springfield Road store. The store was evacuated and a team of officers entered, where they found an employee and a customer who had not yet left.

Police also found a black face mask in the store's toy department as well as an open box nearby that had contained a black airsoft gun. Airsoft guns are replica weapons akin to BB guns.

Police now believe the man seen by the witness was a shoplifter and that there was never any danger from a shooting. The suspect (pictured) is described as a tall, heavyset black man in gray shorts and a gray t-shirt.

Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay Ruotolo commended Union police and the other agencies, including the FBI, that responded to the report, which came amid heightened fears of armed attacks by lone shooters. A total of 31 people were killed in mass shootings earlier this month at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and a downtown Dayton, Ohio,  district known for its bars and restaurants.

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