Merchants in downtown San Mateo were shaken up Wednesday evening after witnessing what they described as a terrifying confrontation involving a young man who was pointing a gun at an older man.
Police were dispatched to Third Avenue and San Mateo Drive sometime after 3 p.m. in response to reports of a male waving a gun.
Kiera McKernan, a manager at Edmond's Plaza Florist at that intersection, said a customer came in screaming for her to call 911.
She looked across the street and saw the confrontation happening in front of the U.S. Bank.
"An older gentleman was standing out there and a younger kid pulled a gun on him and was pointing it at him," she said.
The older man was trying to hide behind a newspaper rack, and the gunman, who she said looked no older than 25, was circling the rack trying to get to him, holding a silver gun, McKernan said.
"He was waving it and making it really known that he had a gun," she said.
She said at one point the younger man cornered the other man and looked like he was going to shoot him.
"He was getting ready to do whatever," she said.
That was when police arrived with what she said looked like shotguns and told him to drop the weapon and get on the ground, McKernan said.
The young man initially pointed the gun in the air then tossed it under a car and lay on the ground, allowing police to arrest him, she said.
She said that when officers put him in the back of a patrol car, he was crying.
"I was so scared when it first happened, but thank God they caught him," she said.
San Mateo police Lt. Mike Brunicardi said officers arrived at the scene quickly, took the person with the gun into custody and recovered the weapon.
Police have released few details about the incident, and Brunicardi said it was not clear whether any shots were fired.
Across the street from the U.S. Bank, an employee at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue said it looked like the younger man tried to shoot the older man with a silver handgun.
"From our side we heard him click the gun three times but we didn't see any bullets coming out," she said.
She said that at that point she assumed it was a toy gun, but then saw the gunman fishing around in his pocket and then making motions as if he were trying to reload the gun.
She said it looked as though the two were involved in an argument and that she heard both yelling, although she couldn't make out what they were saying. The older man was wearing a white T-shirt, and the younger man was wearing a T-shirt and a baseball cap.
The employee said she tried to call 911 and no one answered, but then she heard sirens so she hung up.
She then saw officers with what looked like shotguns running toward the suspect, who had disappeared behind a van.
Meanwhile down the street, Bruce Wynn, a salesman at Footwear Etc. had closed the store after a "hysterical" woman ran in asking him to call 911 and saying there had been a shootout down the street, he said.
Wynn said he locked the store doors and was preparing to "herd" customers into the basement if needed.
Police came by the store after the incident was over and asked about any damage from bullets.
"A cop came into our store and asked if there were any holes in our walls," he said.
After police took the gunman into custody, streets remained closed while officers carried out an investigation. As of 4:45 p.m., Third Avenue was still closed between San Mateo Drive and El Camino Real.
The L&L Hawaiian Barbecue employee said streets were being reopened around 5 p.m.