ATLANTA — A man who threatened a mass shooting at a southwest Atlanta mall is in custody after the threat sparked a massive police response, Atlanta police say.
Officers and squad vehicles filled the parking lot at Greenbriar Mall Friday morning when they learned that a man who was making threats on a crisis hotline was in the area.
Channel 2's Rikki Klaus was there as SWAT teams, bomb squad vehicles, helicopters and ambulances swarmed the parking lot.
Three schools were placed on lockdown as police investigated.
Police said the man called a crisis hotline and threatened a mass shooting and to exchange gunfire with police. The hotline called Atlanta Police.
Atlanta police Sgt. John Chafee said at a news conference Friday afternoon that multiple agencies responded to the scene after police were able to see the man walking around outside the mall on surveillance footage.
They watched him put a backpack down and investigated it as a 'suspicious device' but later determined it was not dangerous.
Chafee said it was important to treat the threat seriously.
“Any time that we have a threat of a mass shooting, it’s something that’s certainly concerning to us," Chafee.
Chafee said they caught the man in the woods near the mall without incident after bringing a negotiator. No one was hurt.
Klaus spoke to a woman at a nail salon in the mall, who described the scary moments police arrived on scene.
“They all came in there, running," Nya Weems said. "It was like, 'Everybody stay where you are. Don’t leave the inside. We’re locking the doors. Wait until somebody comes in and tells you that you guys can come out.'”
Chafee said the man surrendered after negotiators were able to coax him out of the woods. He said they are charging him with a crime, but they are also looking to get the man help.
“We are placing charges on him, and we’re also trying to put him in touch with some professionals that may be able to assist him what whatever’s going on that led to this," Chafee said.
LIVE UPDATES AS THE INCIDENT UNFOLDED BELOW:
A bomb squad and ambulance are now on the scene:
Ralph J. Bunche Middle School is also on a soft lockdown, school officials said. It will not impact the rest of the school day.
Channel 2's Rikki Klaus says she sees at least one officer with his gun drawn.
NewsChopper 2 was on the scene moments ago with images of a very active scene:
Atlanta Public Schools says two schools are on lockdown, Daniel McLaughlin Therrell High School and Continental Colony Elementary School.
Atlanta Police are asking everyone to avoid the area.
Klaus saw police stringing crime scene tape around 1 p.m.
Atlanta Police says the man continues to call a crisis hotline and make threats.
We're working to learn more for Channel 2 Action News.