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Legal questions surround lockdown drill that held customers in stores at Crossgates Mall

Guilderland, NY (WRGB) — CBS 6 has learned there are legal questions surrounding an active shooter drill that was conducted Wednesday at Crossgates Mall.

According to one shopper, customers were forced to be a part of a lockdown drill at the mall, without being informed ahead of time. A concerned family member contacted CBS 6 saying his relative, who did not want to go on camera, was inside the clothing store Zara when she and other customers were “rushed into a back closet.” He says they were told by store employees “not to use their phones.” He said it seemed his relative and the other shoppers were “kept against their will during the drill, with little information about what was going on.”

Three mall employees confirmed their respective stores participated in Wednesday’s lockdown, one said store employees were directed to shut the gates, lock the doors and to tell shoppers they could not leave.

A spokesperson for Guilderland Police Department, which responds to emergencies at the mall, confirmed a lockdown drill did happen at the mall Wednesday, but said the drill was operated by the mall itself and that law enforcement was not involved. Our calls to Crossgates Mall’s management group were not returned Friday.

Attorney Ryan McCall from the law firm Tully Rinckey says if customers were held in stores, it could be a legal problem for those who operated the drill.

“At the very least it opens them up to potential lawsuits,”McCall said. “It opens up them up to liability, whether or not they would be found liable under a lawsuit I’m not sure about,” McCall said.
McCall said holding customers in the store could be considered false imprisonment. He said New York State law isn’t clear on whether a drill like this would be an exception.

“Is the drill going to be allowed under New York State law? Right now the case law is pretty unsettled with that,” he said.

Despite the possible legal issues in this instance, McCall said shoppers did the right thing by following directions of the drill and said you should especially follow directions anytime law enforcement is involved.

Danielle Williams who works near the mall tells me she’s glad the mall is practicing safety, but understands shoppers concerns in this instance.

“I do think it’s good for them to practice, but I think it should’ve had more structure and an announcement to the shoppers,” Williams said.
CBS 6 reached out to multiple representatives at Crossgates’ management company by phone and email Friday and did not hear back.

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