A fight over face coverings caused panic and false rumors of shots being fired which led to a large police response at a Thousand Oaks mall Saturday evening, authorities said.
The incident started when two men confronted a third man over his refusal to wear a mask inside The Oaks Mall, 222 W. Hillcrest Drive, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release Sunday.
The altercation turned into what authorities described as a “melee [that] became increasingly violent.”
At that point, an off-duty Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy intervened, officials said.
The deputy identified himself as a law enforcement official and pulled out his concealed handgun, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said, which “quickly ended” the fight.
But 911 started receiving several calls reporting shots being fired and also of someone brandishing a firearm.
“Deputies were initially sent to a call of a brandishing after a caller reported seeing a man pointing a gun inside the mall,” the Sheriff’s Office said.
Other callers said that the off-duty L.A. deputy had pulled out his concealed handgun to stop a fight, and some people reported seeing four to five people engaging in a fight, authorities said.
“The situation caused confusion and panic among some shoppers,” officials said, adding that the incident prompted faulty rumors of shots fired which led to a large response of 16 patrol units.
No shots were fired, the sheriff’s office said, and there were only some minor injuries from the fight.
None of the men involved wanted to pursue any criminal charges, authorities said.