A normal morning was suddenly flooded with SWAT team sweeps, hovering helicopters, and shouts from armed officers for those near Roosevelt Field Mall Wednesday.
Office buildings and businesses were locked down and entire blocks cut off from traffic as police hunted the area for a man believed to have shot two people, killing one of them.
In the BJ's parking lot across the street, Phil LeSueur noticed something was off when he saw police cars speed down the street.
"I thought it was a hostage situation at first," said LeSueur. "Then I asked an officer and he said it was a shooting…I saw a man walk out of Akbar and police drew their guns and yelled for him to get on the ground. It wasn't [the shooter] but they questioned him."
Meanwhile, people in office buildings near the mall were suddenly placed on lockdown with little knowledge of why they were suddenly cut off from the outside world.
"I wasn't terribly frightened or concerned until we got a companywide email telling us to stay inside the building and informing us that the roads leading out of the complex were closed to traffic," said Tracey Miller Segarra, who works in Garden City.
"We didn't know where the shooter was…but he could've run into our building," said Matthew Tamke, who works at 100 Garden City Plaza. "He could've gone into the mall. He could have run. We just didn't know. All we could see were police cars everywhere and officers with their guns drawn."
Tamke's building, which overlooks the western parking lot of Roosevelt Field, was searched by SWAT teams in an experience he called simply bizarre.
"We were at our desks and a guy comes in with a bulletproof vest on, full black uniform, and a gun pointed at us as he searched the building for [the shooter]. It was just so surreal and so bizarre."
After an initial sweep by SWAT teams, witnesses said all they could do was wait to be told they were no longer in danger.
"The office was a buzz for a while because we didn't know what was going on," said Tamke.
Secondhand information flooded employees' ears as they waited in their businesses, including You're Invited Sales, which sits on Stewart Avenue and backs up to the scene of the shooting.
"We were put on lockdown and were told to stay put," said Tracy Dukes, who works at You're Invited Sales. "And the news that came in was very sketchy. It was all word of mouth. We thought the shooting was in Roosevelt Field. Little did we know, it was about 500 feet behind us!"
While the action-movie suspense put many on edge, witnesses said they still felt safe.
"We felt safe because of the amount of police around the area," said Dukes.
"I was never frightened for my personal safety," said Segarra. "But after the Nairobi Mall tragedy, it did hit a little close to home to have a shooting so close to a mall that I go to regularly during the work week."
"The first thing a lot of people did when they could go outside again was have a cigarette," said Tamke. "Everyone was still on edge and shaken."
As the workday ended and lockdowns were lifted, businesses said they were looking forward to getting back to normal and having regular customer traffic again with a one-of-a-kind story to tell.
"It's definitely a story that I can tell," said Tamke, relieved the experience was over. "I survived a SWAT sweep."