PANIC: Stampede after motorcycle sounds mistaken as gunfire in Times Square

A backfiring motorcycle caused a brief panic and stampede in busy Times Square Tuesday night.

People started running, some into the streets, when the sounds were mistaken for gunfire shortly before 10 p.m. in the heart of the entertainment and retail district.  A large group of motorcycles was passing through at the time.

Thousands of people were in the area when the panic started.  There were reports that some people yelled "shooter" after the startling sound and that caused more panic.  Some children were separated from their parents in the confusion.

The NYPD quickly determined that everything was OK but not before the 911 system was flooded with calls and emergency personnel fanned out through the streets.

The NYPD said 18 people were injured. They suffered mostly scrapes and bruises.

Dramatic video taken from the 10th floor of a hotel overlooking the area showed the chaos as people scattered in every direction, fearing a mass shooter situation.

"You hear a noise, you run. That's the state of this nation. We're petrified," Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said Wednesday as he reflected on the panic.

Gideon Glick, an actor in "To Kill a Mockingbird" on Broadway, said the show at the Shubert Theater had to be stopped because of the chaos.

"Screaming civilians tried to storm our theater for safety. The audience started screaming and the cast fled the stage," he wrote on Twitter. "This is the world we live in. This cannot be our world."

The scare came just days after 31 people were killed in two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in less than 24 hours over the weekend.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.