Crowds fled Penn Station on Friday evening in a chaotic scene sparked by what some people thought was a gunshot, but what turned out to be police using a Taser on a man in the station.
Tourists, commuters and New Yorkers alike were hiding behind garbage cans, diving behind pillars and leaving belongings as they scrambled to escape the calamity. Rumors of a shooter spread to nearby Macy's at Herald Square, where people were seen rushing from the exits.
At a press conference Friday night, the FDNY said 16 people were treated for non-life-threatening injuries after the Penn Station stampede. The NYPD said police received dozens of 911 calls to report shots fired at Penn Station, reports that were ultimately unfounded.
Tensions were already high at the busy station after power problems caused a NJ Transit train carrying 1,200 passengers to get stuck in a Hudson River tunnel, leading to cancellations and delays for NJ Transit, Amtrak and LIRR trains just a week after a minor derailment led to days of service disruptions.
The stuck train spent three hours in the tunnel before it returned to Penn Station, where six people were treated for minor medical issues, officials said. As people were leaving the train they witnessed what one person described as a "wave of screaming and falling people."
A man near the Amtrak waiting area of the station had become belligerent and Amtrak police used a Taser on him, authorities said. News 4 video shows the man being led away in handcuffs.
The pop of the Taser and the reactions of people nearby spread fear through the Amtrak waiting area. Some people thought there was a shooter and ran. Others followed, unsure why hordes of people were fleeing.
In the panic, people left bags and other belongings behind. Clothing, food, books, and even golf clubs, phones and laptops, littered the station in the moments after crowds fled. Some people tripped and fell as they scrambled for the exits.
"People were dropping luggage, kids, everybody was just running," one witness said. "Everybody was really scared. It was a stampede."
People were seen crying and screaming as they ran out of the station. Those still inside the waiting area stood around in shock or disbelief as the mayhem began to subside.
Misinformation about a shooter at Penn Station spread to Macy's several blocks away, leading to panic there as well. People were seen rushing out of the store's exits around 7 p.m.
NYPD Counterterrorism said multiple reports of "shots fired" near Macy's were unfounded.
Authorities said an investigation into the incident is ongoing.