Prince George’s County police have confirmed that a set of fireworks startled casino patrons and resulted in a mass exit and property theft at MGM National Harbor.
The fireworks, according to a police spokesperson, were released inside the building, causing some patrons to rush outside of the building.
While police said an investigation is ongoing into the Saturday night event, they acknowledged that property was stolen following the explosion. MGM National Harbor has not confirmed the details of any theft on the property but did say that they are working closely with police to investigate the matter.
Margaret Moore Kellett, a visitor and former reporter in attendance Saturday night, called the night one of the most harrowing of her lifetime.
“All of a sudden, we saw people running,” Moore Kellett told WTOP. “An enormous crowd of people running towards the door.”
Meanwhile, social media posts grew as patrons and area residents voiced concerns about the exodus. An exit that Moore Kellett said was tough to navigate when they had so little information or time to react.
“Another couple was standing there and we understood that it was a bomb threat and an active shooter,” she said.
Some online commenters used similar language, describing an active shooter or loud gunshots in the casino, saying that they should “grab some chips” on the way out. Other reports claimed that something as small as a set of fireworks might have been set off in the area.
Prince George’s County Police Chief Malik Aziz said during a briefing Monday that a fire alarm was triggered, “intentionally or not.” And then people headed for the exits as someone set off fireworks.
“And fireworks sound very closely related to gunshots,” Aziz said. “And that even created more panic in the attempt to exit the MGM.”
The chief added that the theft or thefts happened during the panic, but authorities are still working to figure out the exact sequence of events.
“I don’t want to go that far to say it was coordinated, because this could have been a series of events that some opportunist decided to take advantage of, or it very well could have been the same people who triggered the fire alarm, who set off some fireworks, and then subsequently made some thefts,” Aziz said.
WTOP reached out to the security team at MGM National Harbor for information on the event or any impacts to their services — they declined to comment the night of the disruption.
WTOP also reached out to public information officers, managing security personnel, hotel management and communications staff. While some calls were answered with no comment that night, most calls were cut off after being transferred to staff.
In either event, attendee Margarett Moore Kellett said that more information is needed so that patrons can feel safe visiting the space.
“I would look into this seriously,” she said. “I know that in the past they had had some shooters, and I did not know about this previously.”
WTOP’s Will Vitka, Matt Small and Veronica Canales contributed to this report.