Panic erupted on Oxford Street in central London after multiple reports of shots being fired, but no evidence of a shooting was found, witnesses and local officials say. Sixteen people were injured during the panic.
The incident began at about 4:37 p.m. local time on Friday when officers were called to multiple reports of shots being fired on Oxford Street and the Oxford Circus subway station. It is believed that some sort of altercation may have caused confusion.
Witnesses in the area described panic as word spread about a shooting, causing fears of a terrorist attack. Footage from the scene showed people screaming as they ran from the scene. A large number of emergency services, including heavily-armed police officers, responded to the incident.
The Metropolitan Police Service, which is also known as Scotland Yard, said they treated the incident as a possible terrorist attack until they knew otherwise. Stores on Oxford Street, which is Europe’s busiest shopping street, were put on lockdown as officers searched the area.
No evidence of a shooting was found, but British Transport Police (BTP) said an altercation between two men occurred at the Oxford Circus tube station. Photos of the two men were released on Friday evening and authorities have asked anyone who recognizes them to call police.
The London Ambulance Service said 16 people sustained injuries during the panic, which happened during one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Seven people were treated at the scene, 8 were taken to hospital for minor injuries, and 1 was taken to a major trauma center for leg injuries.
“Thank you to everyone for bearing with us this evening and also to colleagues from all the emergency services who helped carry out a swift response,” BTP Chief Superintendent Martin Fry said. “Our officers, alongside those from the MPS, reacted quickly and responded professionally in line with our well prepared plans.”
England has experienced a series of terrorist attacks this year, including a suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena in May, killing 22 people and injuring more than 500 others. In June, 11 people were killed in a vehicle and stabbing attack in London.
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