Mystery Escape Room gunman sends 20 cops to The Gateway Mall

Rosemary Roller

While solving a fake mystery may sound like a fun afternoon activity to the average citizen, it’s no game for the Salt Lake City Police Department. A call from one citizen claiming there was a robbery in progress quickly turned a calm, sunny September day into a mad dash to get to The Gateway Mall’s Mystery Escape Room.

Officers received a report of a robbery in progress at the mall on September 23rd claiming the perpetrator had a gun in hand and citizens had their hands up. Officer Matthew Cook explained that he assumed it was most likely a retail theft and that those calls often come in as robberies. This routine reporting to the mall turned south quick once it became clear that weapons were involved.

According to Cook, about 20 cops reported to the mall. They soon realized they had been called specifically to the local Mystery Escape Room, a live entertainment show where visitors go through a staged room and have to solve a preplanned mystery.

According to the Mystery Escape Room’s website, “the objective is to solve and follow the clues to find a way out of the room before time runs out.” In this interactive experience, participants enter a room and have to solve the clues they are presented with. Actors are a part of the interactive experience, as well.

These sorts of mystery escape rooms have become popular worldwide; however, Gateway’s location is the first in the state of Utah, and has only been open for less than a year.

The Mystery Escape Room’s owner Les Pardew explained that their current feature story has a “terrorist” that herds participants at gunpoint, complete with ski mask and toy gun, into a room with a bomb on the door. The participants are meant to be a decoy for police while the terrorist goes and places another bomb somewhere in Salt Lake City. The participants are supposed to have all the information they need about the terrorist in the room and the goal is to piece together the clues and inform police on the other side of the door what they need to know in order to stop the terrorist.

A routine day for the Mystery Escape Room employees was flipped around when a passerby looked in the window and saw the masked actor with a gun in the air.

Following protocol, the police entered the building to make sure it was secure. “It was kind of scary,” Pardew explained. He came outside to several policemen out front with assault rifles. According to Pardew, they were herded to the side and questioned while the team went inside the building.

Pardew’s son David, the Gateway location’s manager, was inside when the police entered. He remarked that when the police ordered everyone to come out of the room with their hands up, they initially didn’t think it was the actual police department. He had to enter the room or participants and inform the group that the actual authorities were there, and no, they weren’t being pranked.

Both the police and the Mystery Escape Room employees went back to work once it became clear that there was no robbery or real danger present.

Although the Mystery Escape Room is going to continue to produce this show through its run, they now have signage indicating that there is a theatrical event in progress in order to avoid another startling visit from the police.

For those interested in experiencing the Mystery Escape Room with less real-life police excitement and more staged suspense, you can find more information at

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