One person was arrested and another cited after an altercation at a Walmart in Baton Rouge late Tuesday morning that caused panic inside the store and prompted law enforcement to swarm the area after initial reports of a possible active shooter situation, which were later debunked.

Jacob Bess, 32, received a misdemeanor summons for disturbing the peace, while Robert Tucker, 44, was arrested for disturbing the peace and aggravated assault with a firearm. 

Police were called out to the Burbank business after frantic accounts from witnesses who reported a possible active shooter. Authorities later learned that weapons were drawn — one gun and one pair of scissors — but no shots were fired. 

East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux initially said early Tuesday afternoon that a bystander had been wounded near the customer service counter of the Walmart on Burbank Drive.

But the story changed several hours later when Gautreaux said investigators had determined initial reports of a shooting were likely false and no shots were fired, despite many witness accounts from people who reported hearing gunshots as they fled the store. 

Gautreaux pointed to the recent mass shootings in Texas and Ohio — the one in El Paso happened at a Walmart — and said both Baton Rouge law enforcement and the public reacted with heightened urgency in light of those events.

"The national climate regarding these incidents has the nation on edge, and citizens' anxiety levels are much higher than normal," the sheriff said in his statement. "We are in a position that we must respond according to our protocols and training to ensure that we are keeping our citizens safe."

The scare in Baton Rouge was one of at least three across the country Tuesday in the wake of the recent mass shootings. Backfiring motorcycle engines in New York's Times Square sent hundreds of panicked people running for safety, and the same happened at a Utah mall when shoppers mistook the sound of a falling sign as gunshots. 

Officials said in their revised account of the incident at the Walmart in Baton Rouge that it began when two men started arguing while waiting in line at the customer service desk.

One of them went outside the store and retrieved a pair of scissors, brandishing them in a stabbing motion, sheriff's office spokesman Col. Bryan White said Tuesday evening. The second man drew a gun in response.

The man with the scissors — Bess — then dropped his weapon and turned to run but then came back to retrieve the scissors before fleeing. White said that's when someone yelled there was a gun, and "all hell broke loose." 

Tucker's arrest report echoes that account and provides a few more details, including that Bess tried to get Tucker to exit the store and fight him during their initial confrontation. When Tucker refused, it appears Bess went outside and retrieved the scissors. However, it's unclear from the report whether he had brandished the scissors before Tucker pulled his gun.


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Email Lea Skene at lskene@theadvocate.com.