WASHINGTON : At least three people are dead after a shooting at a mall in Columbia, Maryland, about 30 miles north of Washington, DC on Saturday afternoon.

An emergency call reported that shots had been fired, Police said. Police did not immediately know the identities of the dead, but said one of the people was believed to be the shooter. The sprawling shopping center has about 200 stores. County police are describing the scene, about 45 minutes outside of D, as an “active shooter situation,” and shut down the mall.

Police are in mall to clear people out safely,” it tweeted. “Mall is believed to be secure, but people inside should wait for police.” First responders were alerted by an emergency police call at 1615 GMT indicating shots were fired at the two-story shopping center, it said.

“Police made entry and found three dead, one found near a gun and ammunition,” it tweeted. Authorities did not immediately provide more details on other victims or the motive of the shooting. Earlier news reports had said that the mall, located in Columbia, Maryland, about 45 minutes outside Washington, was on “lockdown” because of an “active shooter situation.”

The mall of about 200 stores, which has an indoor carousel and play area, is a favored weekend destination for families and young children. The Baltimore Sun newspaper said shoppers reported hearing gunfire before fleeing the upscale mall, home to several department stores such as Lord & Taylor, Macy’s and Nordstrom. NBC television spoke to one man who said he was in phone contact with his daughter, who was taking shelter in a Bank of America branch inside the shopping center, along with dozens of others.

The young woman described a chaotic scene as shoppers were told to evacuate or quickly take shelter. “People were panicking,” the man said. A store employee, speaking to CNN, described the mayhem as shots resonated through the mall. “In today’s world that we live in, when you hear gunshots, you run. There’s nothing else to do,” he said.