By CLYNTON NAMUO
Union Leader Correspondent
Published Dec 8, 2011 at 9:30 pm (Updated Dec 8, 2011)
NEWINGTON — Mayhem erupted when a man ran through the Fox Run Mall Thursday, smashing display cases and glass storefronts with a hammer as he babbled incoherently, police and witnesses said.
Only one person was injured by falling glass, but witnesses described a chaotic scene in which some people feared a gunman was on the loose. Michael Williams, 34, of Dover, was arrested without incident inside the mall for felony criminal mischief.
The ruckus began at Kay Jewelers around 4:45 p.m., when the man smashed several display cases, none of which broke because they are safety glass. He then sprinted to nearby jewelry store Pandora, where he succeeded in bashing in numerous display cases as employees screamed and huddled in a back room, said Peter Gerges, who works at a nearby kiosk and watched the scene unfold.
The man even told Pandora’s employees not to worry, Gerges said.
“He’s like, ‘Don’t panic ladies, I’m not gonna hurt no one,’” Gerges said.
As the smashing began, some people panicked, said Matt Pilar, who works at the shoe store Journeys.
“There were people down there that were screaming and dropping down because they thought it was gunfire,” he said.
Joe Allen, an employee at the T-Mobile kiosk next to Kay, said he and several others chased the man as he smashed display cases at Zales before he ran through the mall and slipped in front of Pretzel Time. Allen said he and three others surrounded the man as he got up from the spill and reacted wildly.
“He’s just swinging it around,” Allen said of the hammer.
The man then walked over and smashed windows at Sleep Number, Yankee Candle, Motherhood Maternity and The Limited before sitting down on a bench outside Victoria’s Secret and tossing the claw hammer aside, Allen said.
“He said, ‘You can call me God,’” Allen said of the man.
Fire Chief Dale Sylvia said all seven stores affected have been shut down for safety reasons and won’t be allowed to reopen until they’ve been inspected. Glass was strewn everywhere at The Limited and Motherhood Maternity, where storefronts were obliterated.
Allen said the man was speaking incoherently. He and others tried unsuccessfully to calm him, he said.
“Honestly, I got more scared when he threw the hammer down and sat down,” Allen said. “I was nervous he had a gun.”
Newington police Sgt. Tim Stuart said Williams was “cooperative and polite” as he was arrested.
“The gentleman obviously has some issues,” Stuart said.
Allen said that when police arrived, the man told them everything that just happened.
“The cops showed up and he told them exactly what he did,” Allen said.
“He was just nuts; it’s this time of year, I think.”