Panic erupted among Christmas shopping crowds on London’s Oxford Street on Friday evening as armed officers raced to respond to reports of shots being fired in the area, but police said later they had found no evidence of gunfire or casualties.
Oxford Street, with its festive window displays and hundreds of overhead lights, was crammed with shoppers taking advantage of the Black Friday sales when the incident happened shortly after dusk.
London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement they had found no evidence of gunfire, casualties or any suspects and that the incident, which lasted for just over an hour, had been stood down.
“Given the nature of the information received, the Met responded in line with our existing operation as if the incident was terrorism, including the deployment of armed officers,” the police said in a statement.
British Transport Police posted CCTV images of two men on Twitter, saying they believed that an altercation had erupted between the two men at the Oxford Circus underground station and said they would like to speak to the men, "who they believe may have information about the incident and the circumstances around the incident."
A Reuters witness said panicked shoppers had fled Oxford Street and the Oxford Circus underground station.
The witness saw an elderly lady and a man carrying a child knocked over in the rush. “There were people running in all directions. I didn’t know which way to run,” the witness said.
The transport police said they had received a report of one woman suffering a minor injury in the panic.
The capital’s transport operator, Transport for London, said the Oxford Circus and Bond Street stations, which were briefly shut due to the incident, had later reopened.