DALLAS - Thousands of people were terrified at NorthPark Center on Memorial Day when police said a man used his skateboard to make a noise that sounded like gunfire.
Now, a man whose 3-year-old daughter was injured during the stampede is speaking out about what he believes could’ve been handled better.
"The sirens went off, screaming, and then everybody runs at once," Daniel Gearner said.
Gearner’s daughter was trampled while people were running away from what turned out to be false call of an active shooter at NorthPark Center.
"And it was just like a complete stampede," he said. "She was screaming, crying."
Her head, eye, and neck were bruised and bloodied.
Looking back, mall-goers didn’t know the reported active shooter was actually a mentally disturbed man clanking a skateboard and then making hand gestures like he had a gun.
"You don’t know what the experience is like until it happens to you," Gearner said.
Nearly a week later, Gearner reflected on ways he could’ve been more prepared to keep his family safe.
"In the moment, you can’t even really see what’s happening around you, you’re just freaking out," he explained.
Gearner said he first heard sirens.
He didn’t immediately take action. He feels those 20-30 seconds cost him valuable time.
And by the time he picked his daughter up to run for safety, there was mass hysteria.
"So much just pushing and shoving," he recalled.
They were each knocked to the ground twice by people rushing from behind.
"I didn’t even have a chance to see is she OK, is she conscious, is she bleeding, none of that," he said. "It was, I’ve got to make it to the exit and out the door and make sure we make it out alive."
Making things worse, his phone fell out of pocket. His wife, who was locked down in a dressing room, couldn’t reach them for 45 minutes.
"You don’t even know what’s happening around you," he added.
Eventually, they were reunited and learned there was no shooter.
Still, Gearner is taking this opportunity to warn people to have a plan and immediately take action if ever in a situation like this.
Or one that isn’t a false call could prove to be worse.
"I think I would just head to the doors as soon as I thought maybe there’s a chance there could be something wrong," Gearner said. "You know that you have to do everything to get her out alive."
Dallas PD, like other departments across the country, provides active shooter training and protocols.
Most follow the ABC’s. Avoid. Barricade. Confront.
The first line of defense is avoid. People should run and get out of dodge as fast as possible. If that’s not an option, barricade inside the safest possible place. Lastly, if those options aren’t possible, confront and try to take out the shooter.
As scary as that may seem, experts say it’s better to go on offense at that point.