The New York Police Department tweeted a reassurance after it received multiple 911 calls about the tumult on Tuesday night.
“There is no ActiveShooter in TimesSquare. Motorcycles backfiring while passing through sounded like gun shots,” the department said.
“Please don’t panic. The Times Square area is very safe!”
But after 31 people were killed in two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in less than 24 hours over the weekend, the sudden discharge of loud noises had people screaming as they fled one of New York City’s most popular areas.
Some pounded on theatre doors to find a place to hide.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said the nation was in fear.
“You hear a noise, you run. That’s the state of this nation. We’re petrified,” he said.
Video footage showed the throngs rushing out of the busy tourism and entertainment area, with some taking cover behind vehicles.
Gideon Glick, an actor in To Kill a Mockingbird on Broadway, said the show at the Shubert Theater had to be stopped because of the chaos.
“Screaming civilians tried to storm our theatre for safety. The audience started screaming and the cast fled the stage,” he wrote on Twitter.
“This is the world we live in. This cannot be our world.”
The Fire Department of New York said nine people were hurt altogether, with six transported to hospitals. Most injuries were minor.
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