Staff at a Lisburn shopping center spoke of their terror as a man – shirtless and carrying a large knife and what appeared to be a gun – ran amok.
A 50-year-old man was arrested after officers responded to a 999 call from the Bow Street Mall on Tuesday afternoon.
The mall was locked down for more than an hour in the presence of specialist officers with police dogs.
Some customers fled in fear for their lives, while others, including a number of mothers with young children, hunkered down in shops that had been forced to lower their shutters.
Dramatic footage filmed by staff shows five police officers in full protective gear, along with a dog, storming the Costa Coffee, where the suspect was threatening security staff.
Other officers formed a circle of steel around the center, fearing the man was trying to escape.
An eyewitness said the man was shirtless and was confronted by a security guard, who asked him to put on a top or leave.
At this point he became agitated and began threatening staff, before pulling out a knife and what appeared to be a gun.
“I could see a man with no top, but to be honest you see all kinds of retail work, and so I didn’t think much of it at first,” the eyewitness said.
“Then I saw him pull out a knife and my friend said, ‘Oh my God, he’s got a gun.
“I didn’t notice the gun at first, it was in the back of his pants.”
The man pulled the gun, which was later said to be a replica, from his trouser waistband and threatened a security guard who was trying to calm the situation.
Staff at other stores received an emergency alert on the mall’s intercom system and rushed to secure their premises.
“When he pulled out the gun, people started running all over the place,” a store employee said.
“We lowered the shutters as quickly as possible.
“The girl in the store across from us couldn’t see what was going on, so we yelled at her to quickly close her shutter.
“It was chaos until the police arrived. I didn’t see the man get arrested, but we were told around 4.30pm it was safe to reopen.
“Not what you expect when you come to work on a Tuesday.”
Pat Catney, SDLP MP for Lagan Valley, said the incident was “frightening for shoppers and staff”.
“No one should be subjected to this as part of their job or their day,” he said.
“This incident at Bow Street Mall has been extremely distressing for shoppers and staff.
“There is absolutely no place for guns in our community and I am pleased that all guns recovered from this incident are now removed from our streets.
“I would like to commend the efforts of the police to bring this incident to an end without causing any injuries and would ask anyone with relevant information to come forward and assist the police in their investigation.”
The PSNI said a 50-year-old man was arrested after police responded to a report of a man acting suspiciously at the Bow Street Mall in Lisburn town center around 2.45pm.
He added that the suspect had also been arrested on suspicion of possessing “a point or blade” in a public place.
He remains in custody.