Motorcycle Backfire Mistaken for Gunfire Sends Crowds Fleeing in Times Square

Video captured people running for their lives.

There was panic in Times Square Tuesday night as hundreds fled after they heard what they believed to be gunfire but turned out to be motorcycles backfiring.  

The chaos erupted just before 10 p.m., when the area was packed with tourists and just as some of the Broadway shows were letting out. 

Many of those running for their lives tried to find safety inside Broadway theaters, where some of the shows were still going on. Footage captured by EarthCam showed the mass exodus.

At the Shubert Theatre, where the hit "To Kill a Mockingbird" is playing, desperate people started banging on the locked doors seeking refuge inside. The performance came to a standstill.

Actress Celia Keenan-Bolger, who plays Scout, tweeted: "this was terrifying for the audience who heard screaming & banging on the doors, so they hid or ran & tried to flee. It was terrifying for us because we didn't know what was happening or what to do."

At the Music Box Theater, where the blockbuster "Dear Evan Hansen" is playing, audience members jumped on stage with the actors.

Actor Jeremy Stolle, who stars in "The Phantom of the Opera," described the chaotic scene at his theater as he was leaving and signing autographs. 

"It was just wave of people, just thousands of people evacuating Times Square. They were so scared, there were people crying, there were people screaming," he said. 

Minutes after the panic erupted, the NYPD tweeted: "There is no #activeshooter in #TimesSquare. Motorcycles backfiring while passing through sounded like gun shots."

Security expert Steve Kardian explained the chaos to Inside Edition. 

"It sounded as close to gunshots as you can get,” he told Inside Edition. “If you are in the center of the crowd you are going to have to go with the volume of the people or be trampled. Hide behind a structure, something that people will have to go around, so you don’t get trampled. That is the worst time and the worst place for you to be [is] the center of the crowd.”