ALLENTOWN - Shoppers took refuge inside a mall yesterday morning after shots were fired in the parking lot, apparently during an attempted armored-car holdup.

Television footage showed three bullet casings in the parking lot of South Mall, where police arrived shortly after 10:30 a.m. It was not immediately clear if anyone was hurt.

Bank of America spokesman Ernesto Anguilla said the shooting apparently was related to an attempted holdup of an armored car.

"The incident did occur in the mall parking lot, outside of the banking center," he told the Associated Press. "None of our associates or customers were injured. The lobby of our banking center is currently closed while the police investigate."

A store employee heading into work noticed a suspicious vehicle in the parking lot between the bank and the mall entrance, said Shawn Southard, a spokesman for the mall's owner, Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust. The employee alerted mall security, who in turn contacted police around 10 a.m., Southard said.

Patty Dudley, a shopper from Macungie, said she was at the SteinMart store when employees ushered her and other customers to the back of the store. They told her that something had happened outside and that customers could not leave.

The shooting occurred in Salisbury Township. Police officials there declined immediate comment.