A teenager was killed during a shooting at America’s largest mall, in the state of Minnesota, that sent frightened customers racing into a lockdown just before the holiday weekend, police said.
Bloomington’s police chief, Booker Hodges, said the victim was a 19-year-old man. A bystander’s jacket was also grazed by a bullet during the shooting at the Nordstrom outlet in the Mall of America on Friday.
There appeared to be an altercation between two groups and at one point, someone pulled out a gun and shot the victim multiple times, Hodges said. The entire incident lasted about 30 seconds.
Hodges urged the gunman and the others involved in the fight to turn themselves in to police. He also warned people against aiding the suspects in avoiding arrest.
“If anybody helps these people – I mean so much as buy them a Happy Meal, give them a ride – we’re going to lock you up with them,” he said.
The mall was expected to reopen on Saturday but the Nordstrom store would remain closed, he said.
The Bloomington police department responded to the shooting shortly before 8pm, the mall said in a statement.
The lockdown lasted for about an hour before the mall tweeted that shoppers were being sent outside. Emergency vehicles had converged in the snowy parking lot and police could be seen putting up yellow crime-scene tape near the Nordstrom store.
Videos posted on social media show shoppers hiding in stores, and an announcement in the mall warned people to seek shelter. Some videos show shoppers running for cover after a loud bang is heard.
The reported shooting comes as shopping centers and malls across the US see an influx of customers just days before Christmas.
Jenny Hefty of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and her 16-year-old daughter had just gotten off the escalator up to the mall’s second floor, in front of the Nordstrom store, when people started running toward them and screaming. Her daughter thought she heard gunshots, although Hefty did not.
“At first we thought they were just messing around,” she said on Friday night. “It was like ‘why are all these kids running by us?’”
Retailers began shutting their doors and her husband told them to run as armed guards rushed toward Nordstrom, where Hefty had been trying perfume about 20 minutes earlier.
The trio raced to their hotel in the mall complex and frantically tried to reach the couple’s 18-year-old daughter, 21-year-old son and their friends on their mobile phones. They had been shut inside stores or whisked into safer spots as the mall locked down.
Since it opened in 1992, the mall has been a tourist destination and community gathering spot. It bans guns on the premises but shoppers have generally not been required to pass through metal detectors. The mall said in October it was testing a “weapons detection system” at one of its entrances.
The mall was placed on lockdown in August after a reported shooting at the suburban Minneapolis shopping complex sent some shoppers running for cover, and two people were wounded last New Year’s Eve during an apparent altercation.
Representatives from the city of Bloomington and Nordstrom did not immediately return requests for comment.