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Gunman opens fire inside Mall of America, prompting lockdown

Police search for Mall of America gunman
Police search for Mall of America gunman 03:33

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Mall of America was on lockdown for almost two hours Thursday after a gunman opened fire inside the massive shopping complex.

Bloomington Police Chief Booker T. Hodges says officers heard shots fired near the Nike store on the second level of the mall's west side at 4:15 p.m., and they were at the scene within 30 seconds. 

Surveillance video shows two groups of young adults having an altercation at the cash register inside the store. One of the groups walks out, but a member of that group soon returns and fires three rounds inside before fleeing. There were no reported injuries.

Mall guests fleeing Nickelodeon Universe. Andy Paras/Twitter

"Instead of walking away, they decided to demonstrate a complete lack of respect for human life. They decided to fire multiple rounds into a store with people," Hodges said. "For those who did this, please turn yourself in. If you choose not to, our partners, our officers, our detectives will not stop until we lock you up."

Hodges says even though there was one shooter, police are searching for two suspects. He says there is no danger to the public at this time.

WCCO spoke with mall guests who heard the gunfire.

"We were about to go into the Nike store, and we heard a lot of commotion, and then we just look over and just heard pop-pop-pop!" said Jodiss Pierre. "You duck .. and then you run, but while you run you look back to make sure your family is OK. That's what I did because I was with my family, I had to make sure they were good, and then we just ran to the closest exit."

Chicago resident Dr. Sylvia Cruz was visiting the mall while on vacation.  

"We heard about four or five shots, a woman screaming, then all of the sudden we saw someone running out, so we just run out and follow the crowd," said Cruz. "This is just so sad that you can't even go anywhere because of fear of what could happen."

There was a large police presence for hours outside of the Best Western hotel, located across the street from the mall. Hodges says they believed the suspects had fled to the hotel, but they were not found there.

Hodges was frank when pressed by reporters about how police and mall security could potentially boost safety.

"If someone decides that they don't value human life and they choose to pull out a weapon, I don't know what we can do," he said.

Mall of America officials say the lockdown ended at 6:10 p.m., and the mall will be closed for the rest of Thursday evening. It will reopen Friday morning.  

While Hodges said his department had no plans to beef up security, Mall of America Vice President Dan Jasper says guests can expect to see an increase in security staffing and law enforcement partners.

When asked about videos circulating on social media of people entering the mall in the aftermath of the shooting, and in the midst of the lockdown, Jasper said security staff are unable to lock incoming doors, and intercom messages and digital screen alerts are the mall's key messaging tools in these situations.

He said guns are banned on mall property, and guests shouldn't expect to see metal detectors installed any time soon.

"This is an open building, in an open society," he said.

Jasper says the mall has had an incredible safety record in its 30 years in operation, and he feels safe bringing his own grandchildren there.

He says guests who left personal items at the mall during the chaos can retrieve them Friday by visiting the Guest Services Desk.

Gov. Tim Walz released a statement Thursday night about the shooting, calling the violence "unacceptable."

"These brazen incidents will not be tolerated," Walz said. "We are committed to maintaining an unprecedented state law enforcement presence in the Twin Cities until we put a stop to this rise in crime."

Police are urging anyone with information on this shooting to call 952-563-4900.

This is the second time shots were fired in the mall in less than eight months. On New Years Eve, Kahlil Wiley opened fire in the mall around 5 p.m. and hit two people. He is serving a 45 month prison sentence for the shooting. 

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