MONROEVILLE, Pa. – Gunfire erupted at a Pittsburgh-area shopping centre on Saturday evening, wounding three people, two critically, in a shooting that targeted one of the victims, police said. The mall and a hospital’s emergency room were placed on lockdown as police searched for the suspect.
The shootings occurred inside the Macy’s at the Monroeville Mall at about 7:30 p.m., sending shoppers running. Police went store to store to evacuate the mall, which closed for the night.
Chief Douglas Cole said two men and a woman were shot, including a man who was targeted and was struck at least once. The other two victims were bystanders caught in the line of fire, he said.
Police were looking at the mall’s surveillance video as part of their investigation.
Cole said police identified a suspect, whom he described as a black male in his late teens who is between 5-foot-7 and 5-foot-9 inches tall and was wearing dark clothing. No arrests have been made.
The three victims were taken to Forbes Hospital with gunshot wounds, hospital spokesman Jesse Miller said. One was in stable condition, he said. Cole said the other two suffered life-threatening injuries.
Detectives told the hospital to lock down its emergency room until they were certain the shooter had been captured, Miller said.
Pennsylvania native and ex-NFL quarterback Terrelle Pryor tweeted that he was at the mall, a short drive east of Pittsburgh.
“Damn was just in monroeville mall and just saw 2 ppl get shot,” he tweeted. “They are letting guns go in there.”
Shoppers described chaos as shots rang out.
“All of the sudden we heard people screaming,” Athena Coffey of Churchill told KDKA-TV, “and the next thing you see is a bunch of people, teenagers, scared to death, just exodus en masse in a way you could not believe. I grabbed my children, husband, we started screaming ‘go, go, go!'”
Yvette Jackson of North Braddock was attending a birthday party at Giggles and Smiles, a fitness and fun centre for children.
“We saw a lot of running, a lot of chaos,” she told the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review. She said she and other patrons were locked in the store for about 45 minutes until police came and let them out.
In late December, hundreds of teenagers gathered at the mall and several fights broke out. The fights caused local officials and mall administration to agree on a plan to increase security there.
Four on-duty police officers have been stationed in the mall on Friday and Saturday evenings at the mall’s request, Monroeville Mayor Gregory Erosenko said.
“I would have thought that having four officers there would have deterred any incident like we saw (Saturday),” he told the newspaper.
Weapons are banned at the mall, whose code of conduct specifically prohibits “Carrying or displaying weapons of any kind except those carried by certified law enforcement officers in the performance of their duties.”
The mall, which is owned and managed by CBL & Associates Properties Inc., of Chattanooga, Tennessee, has 1.1 million square feet of shopping space. It says on its website it features more than 125 stores and eateries, anchored by JCPenney, Macy’s and Barnes & Noble.
No one answered the phone at CBL offices after business hours Saturday. A mall security officer reached by telephone said he couldn’t talk.