One Dead, One Injured In Southcenter Mall Shooting
UPDATED: 10:38 pm PST November 22, 2008
TUKWILA, Wash. -- A shooting inside the Southcenter Mall in Tukwila that killed one person and injured another may be gang related, said Tukwila police spokesman Mike Murphy.
The mall was locked down Saturday night as SWAT team members went store-to-store searching six hours for the gunman, Murphy s More..aid. Some employees and shoppers remained inside the stores until police came by to escort them out of the mall.
Multiple shots were fired inside the mall just before 3:45 p.m. Saturday with “thousands” of shoppers at the mall, Murphy said.
Eyewitness Chris Plummer said there was a fight between a group of 18 to 20 year olds and one of them pulled out a gun and started shooting. Plummer said he was standing next to the shooter when bullets started to fly, six to seven shots in all.
Police said the shooting was not random and it involved a fight between two groups of people.
Two victims in their late teens or early 20s were transported to Harborview Medical Center in critical condition, said hospital spokesperson Susan Gregg-Hanson.
One man died and the other remains in critical condition. No other people were injured, Murphy said.
The shooter has not been caught. Murphy said that there is a possibility the assailant "may have escaped" with the crowd, but he said police anticipated identifying the shooter "soon" and then making an arrest.
Police describe the shooter as a black male in his late teens to early 20s, about 5 feet 6 inches tall, around 130 pounds, short hair and no facial hair. He was wearing a black jumpsuit with matching pants.
At least two people were detained for questioning, but neither was the shooter, Murphy said.
Jeanette Warren, from KIRO News Radio, said she was shopping when she heard one noise followed by two more gun shots and then was ushered to the back of a store.
“We laid low probably for one minute and were very quiet as we listened for voices telling us it was OK,” Warren said.
She said she was then escorted out the backdoor by a store manager and into the south parking lot.
Warren said people were definitely fearful, especially among the younger people who were separated from their parents or relatives.
Tony Gurule said he was in the mall when he heard the gunfire. He got out his cell phone and captured video after the shooting when people were tending to a woman who struck her head. See video.
Eyewitness Melissa Del Toro said she came from the movie theater and went to the food court.
“We saw a wave of people coming at us from the center of the mall, sort of like a big giant wave of people screaming.” Toro said.
At that moment, Toro said she didn’t realize what was going on, but eventually knew she had to get out.
Toro said she ran to a bathroom and gathered in a handicapped stall with about eight adults and two children. She said everyone was huddled in the stall and they were trying to calm the children who were screaming.
Toro said they spent several minutes in the stall before leaving the bathroom.
Jessie Vanderschauw was shopping inside the Forever 21 store when she heard the gunshots.
"Heard two or three gunshots. It was just 'pop, pop.' Everyone knelt down and hid behind whatever they could. You could see people frantic," she said.
She said employees had shoppers go into the dressing rooms for about 30 minutes before escorting them out.
The mall was evacuated after the shooting and the parking lots and surrounding streets quickly filled up with traffic.
Multiple agencies including Tukwila, Renton, King County and the SWAT team responded to the scene.
The mall will be open regular hours on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
In March, a 21-year-old man was wounded in gunfire between several people outside the mall. In September 2005, two men were shot and killed inside a car parked at the mall during what appeared to be a drug deal.