UNION, NJ – Union police have concluded that the report of a man in the toy department at Walmart wearing a mask and carrying a gun – which caused a store evacuation -- was a suspected shoplifting event.  

According to Union police, at 10:48 a.m. Thursday morning a woman called police saying she observed a man wearing a black mask and holding a black gun in the toy department at the Walmart at 900 Springfield Road. Police units responded as the store was being evacuated.

During their initial search and investigation, police located a black airsoft face mask in the toy department that matched the description given by the witness. Officers also located the open, empty packaging for a large black airsoft gun. The airsoft gun matched the description of the weapon provided by the witness. The toy gun was located later in the same area.

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Police say based on their preliminary investigation, the witness who contacted police observed a shoplifting in progress.  Police add they have no indication that the suspect, described as a tall, heavyset black male wearing gray shorts and a gray tee-shirt, had the means or intent to cause harm to anyone.

“I want to commend the swift and thorough response of the Union Police Department, under the leadership of Director Zieser, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, especially Chief Gagliardi and Sgt. Fay, the county’s Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, as well as the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the FBI,” said acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo.

Ruotolo added, “These brave individuals worked together in responding immediately to a call to protect the public we serve.  Thankfully, this turned out to be a false alarm, but their prompt mobilization of resources and collaboration should be a comfort to the citizens of Union County.”