Justin Smith via AP
COLUMBIA, SC — Police arrested a 22-year-old man on Saturday in connection with a shooting at a busy mall in South Carolina’s capital that left 14 people injured.
Columbia Police Chief WH “Skip” Holbrook said one of three people originally held by law enforcement as a person of interest remains in custody and should be charged with illegal carrying of a gun. It is not immediately known whether the suspect has an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
Holbrook said in a press release on Saturday evening that 14 people were injured, ranging in age from 15 to 73. Nine people were shot dead and the other five people were injured as they tried to flee the mall for safety, police said.
The 73-year-old victim is the only person still receiving medical treatment, according to police. All the other victims have been treated and released or will be soon, the statement said. No deaths have been reported.
Earlier, ten people were shot dead and two others injured in a shooting at a busy shopping mall in South Carolina’s capital, which authorities do not consider a random attack.
Three people who had firearms were arrested in connection with Saturday afternoon’s shooting at the Columbiana Center, Columbia Police Chief WH “Skip” Holbrook said. He said that at least one of these three people had fired a weapon.
“We don’t think it was random,” Holbrook said. “We believe they knew each other and something led to the shootings.”
Authorities said no deaths were reported, but eight of the victims were taken to hospital. Of those eight, two were in critical condition and six were in stable condition, Holbrook said. The victims ranged in age from 15 to 73, he said.
Daniel Johnson said he and his family were from Alabama and were eating in the food court when they first heard gunshots and started seeing people running.
Johnson said people were screaming for their children and spouses, knocking over tables in the food court as they fled.
“Everyone was trying to get out,” Johnson said. “When I was going out, you could see strollers turned over, people’s phones and keys left behind. It was kind of a hectic situation.”
Johnson said he gathered his wife, daughter and son and started heading for the exit after letting the crowd loosen up a bit.
“My biggest thing was – and not to sound selfish – was making sure our family was okay and getting them out safely because that’s not something we like to do for the weekend. Easter.”
A heavy police presence continued in the area hours after the shooting, although officers began leaving more traffic on the streets surrounding malls and strip malls which are usually crowded on weekends. Officers were also stationed outside a nearby hotel designated as a staging area for those at the scene of the shooting and their families.
Workers from a few stores remained huddled in the nearly empty parking lot on Saturday night, waiting for police to let them inside to collect their car keys and belongings so they could leave. They said they heard and saw nothing during the shooting, but followed the mall’s alert system and were evacuated by police shortly thereafter. They declined to give their names, citing company policies.
“Today’s isolated and senseless act of violence is extremely upsetting and our hearts go out to all those affected,” the Columbiana Center said in a statement. “We are grateful for the quick response and continued support from our security team and law enforcement partners.”
The shooting is the latest in a string of shootings at or near malls across the country.
A 15-year-old boy was shot in the head on Wednesday outside the Atlantic Terminal Mall in Brooklyn. His injuries were not believed to be life threatening. Officials said he was with a group of boys when they got into a fight with a second group.
A Southern California shoe store owner mistakenly shot a 9-year-old girl while shooting two shoplifters at the Victor Valley Mall on Tuesday, police said.
And earlier this month, police said six people were killed and 12 others injured in Sacramento, California, in a shootout between rival gangs as bars closed in a busy neighborhood near the Downtown Mall. Commons and State Capitol.