Police identified him as Eric Gibson, 33, of Avondale Estates, and charged him with reckless conduct and simple assault.
Gibson took no hostages, no shots were fired and no one was reported injured, but REI and Michaels were evacuated as police, fire and SWAT teams made camp in the shopping center’s parking lot.
The ordeal began just before 11 a.m. Store employees told Channel 2 Action News that chaos ensued when a voice came over the loudspeaker telling everyone to “run” and “get out.”
Gibson threatened coworkers, managers and customers inside the store, according to Channel 2. Police did not say what set him off.
“The manager came out of the office and she just told us, all of us, to run,” an unnamed employee told the news station. “The store was open, there was customers in the store, and we ran.”
Police arrived on scene within two minutes of the first 911 call, Splawn said. Officers from the Milton, Johns Creek and Roswell police departments provided backup.
“There were people taking cover to barricade themselves for safety, but as police officers were sweeping and searching the building, we were able to get everyone out safely,” Splawn said.
A crisis negotiator spent hours talking with Gibson until officers found him hiding in a room in the back of the store. They also recovered a handgun in the area, police said.
“The negotiator quickly developed a relationship with Gibson, and less than two hours later, Gibson surrendered peacefully and was taken into custody,” the release stated.
— Staff writer Jozsef Papp contributed to this article.