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YouTuber causes panic at Cielo Vista Mall

Police vehicles surround Cielo Vista Mall after a rumor spread of a shooting on Saturday, April 24, 2021. The false alarm appeared to be connected to a YouTube celebrity appearance at the mall. (Armando Vela/ El Diario del Paso)

YouTuber Danny Duncan caused a panic at Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso, Texas, Saturday after rumors spread of shots being fired inside the building. The mall is located next door to the Walmart where a mass shooting led to the deaths of 23 people in August 2019.

Most El Pasoans breathed a sigh of relief after finding out it was just a false alarm. But the events that took place show the long-term effects a mass shooting has on a community.

Authorities received a call about a shooting at 3:56 p.m. according to El Paso police officer Adrian Cisneros. Word quickly began to spread on social media that there might be an active shooting at Cielo Vista Mall. The El Paso Police Department quickly tweeted that no shots were fired, but officers evacuated the mall as a precaution.

Cisneros explained during a press conference that a celebrity was in the mall and people running toward him led others to panic. While authorities didn’t say who the celebrity was, Duncan posted a story on Instagram showing him outside the mall with fans. Cisneros went on to say that the celebrity left before police arrived and were not able to question him.

Police announced Monday that there is a criminal investigation into the incident currently underway.

https://twitter.com/EPPOLICE/status/1386750842288607235

A video posted on Instagram by Fit Fam El Paso showed a crowd entering through the mall’s east entrance. Another showed a group of people surrounding Duncan start to run away in a frenzy. 

Additional videos showed people fleeing the mall’s west exit, a scene that felt eerily similar to what El Pasoans saw less than two years ago.

Shortly after the incident, Duncan tweeted about it denying that it was a part of a prank.

https://twitter.com/DannyDuncan69/status/1386106922177282048

The impact of this one scare could be felt across El Paso as Cisneros explained it caused a “city-wide response” to the potential threat. Many nearby businesses shut down as police officers surrounded the area.

Haley Comber, an employee at a nearby bookstore said she and her co-workers went through an active shooter procedure by locking the doors and escorting customers to the back of the store. She explained the people around her were struck with fear.

“One girl in particular will stay with me. She was at Cielo Vista for the Walmart shooting and she was hysterical,” Comber said. “She tried hiding in the bathroom during the duration of the lockdown. All I could hear was her mom try to comfort her and tell her ‘you’re okay. You will be fine. You are safe.’ It’s sad that she had to relive that experience even if there was no active shooting.”

Many more citizens took to social media to express the fear and panic they felt during those uncertain moments while others shared frustration and anger with the YouTuber for his seeming lack of care.

This unfortunate situation seems to be the result of a callous disregard for safety and the community, which became the perfect recipe for panic. 

Police officers surround Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso, Texas, after a rumor spread of a shooting on Saturday, April 24, 2021. (Armando Vela/El Diario del Paso)

Duncan first became known for his “prank” videos including the viral video “Falling With 30,000 Pennies,” which has amassed over 30 million views to date. 

The YouTuber was also involved in a controversy when a Roseburg, Oregon, high school student was sent home for wearing a shirt from Duncan’s clothing line with the slogan “Virginity Rocks,” in April 2018. Duncan reacted by going to the town and giving away 500 shirts to students in the name of freedom of speech.

His content has changed over the years and now resembles a modern day version of “Jackass,” with outlandish stunts and ties to skate culture. Many of his videos and social media posts show him flaunting assault style weapons.

Currently it appears Duncan is traveling across Texas and setting up impromptu meet and greets along the way. A recent Instagram story shows him in Del Rio, Texas, surrounded by teenage fans on April 26.

While many of his young fans enjoy his willingness to meet them, the unplanned nature of these events and unforeseen crowds can be problematic, especially in a city that has already endured so much.

Many were quick to point the finger at Duncan for inciting the chaos. Others said it may have been a fan in the crowd that began the rumor. Regardless of how the incident started, it was likely unintentional. 

Had this been a planned event, El Paso would have likely accepted Duncan with open arms. With security involved, the situation could have gone much differently. Perhaps organized meet and greets don’t make for great YouTube content, but they show celebrities doing what they can to keep their fans and the community safe.

With that said, Duncan has still failed to take responsibility for his role in the commotion on Saturday and how he may have hurt people in El Paso.

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