BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (WCCO) -- New Year's Eve shopping inside the Mall of America was interrupted by gunfire Friday after a shooting inside left two men hurt and shoppers hunkered down in stores as the massive complex was under lockdown for nearly an hour.
Bloomington Police Deputy Chief Kim Clauson said that the shooting happened around 5 p.m. in the north area on Level 3. An officer in the mall heard gunfire and found a man on the floor in front of the Lotus Bed store with a gunshot wound to his leg. Not long after, another man was found with an injury that appeared to be a bullet graze.
Police News Conference On Mall Of America Shooting
The man shot in the leg was taken to Hennepin Healthcare for treatment. He is expected to survive. Police say he was involved in an altercation with the shooter and likely knew him. Investigators do not think the shooting was random.
The man grazed was a bystander. Paramedics treated him at the scene; he did not need to be hospitalized.
Police are still searching for the shooter, who fled the mall. According to Clauson, investigators will review the extensive security camera footage from inside the building to identify the shooter and find him.
Clauson said that the suspect could have been at the mall with one or more people. Police do not believe he was with a large group, but are working to confirm that information.
When asked at a press conference how the shooter brought a gun into the building, Clauson said that while the mall bans guns on the premises, there are no searches or metal detectors at the doorways.
The shooting prompted a lockdown of the entire building that lasted roughly 45 minutes. Videos posted on social media showed people running and screaming from the mall. Many shoppers scrambled to find shelter inside stores until the all-clear was given.
Police from Richfield, Eagan and Burnsville responded during the lockdown, as did officers from the Minnesota State Patrol and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Harlie Vaughn was visiting the mall from Iowa and got separated from her parents. She was inside Barnes & Noble when the lockdown was initiated. She said that no one knew what was happening and the uncertainty caused some to panic.
"One of them I almost thought was going to have an anxiety attack," she said.
Jessica Lopez, of St. Paul, said she spent the lockdown at Hollister with a group of friends who were visiting the mall for the first time.
"When [the workers] told us to go to the back, we thought it was like a practice," she said, adding that she later heard there was a shooting on the third floor. "I was worried for my little sister, so I called my dad, who said it was on the news. So I was like, OK, this is something serious."
Lopez and two other friends said that store employees and other shoppers were generally calm during the lockdown, taking videos and looking at news updates on their phones.
Cousins Kristina Charter, 12, and Kira Alexander-Jackson, 13, were visiting from Chicago to celebrate Kira's birthday. The teenagers were separated from their uncle and father during the lockdown but showed remarkable composure.
"We walked out and it was on the intercom, 'If you're not in a safe place, find one. Seek shelter,'" Charter said. "I wasn't really scared, because I've thought about this moment randomly in my life just like, 'I wonder what would happen?' so I wasn't really scared, trying to keep calm."
The two ran into a nearby shoe store to take shelter. Kira's dad and Kristina's uncle, Joey Jackson, was in IKEA across the way when he got a panicked call from his daughter that there had been a shooting. He went into the mall to get them to safety.
"It's my daughter's birthday and then Christmas, so we just came out for the final days of shopping of 2021 and unfortunately this happened," he said.
Shortly after the lockdown was lifted, the mall closed at 6 p.m. and cancelled its New Year's Eve celebration. Those with tickets for the event were given refunds. Mall officials say the building will reopen Saturday at 10 a.m. with enhanced security.
In a tweet, mall management thanked shoppers and tenants for their quick response to the lockdown.
There will be increased security at the mall on Saturday and Sunday. Hours are shortened because of the holiday on Saturday, and they will stay the same.
A spokesperson said everyone with a ticket for the New Year's Eve celebration has been refunded.
Police say that as of Saturday afternoon, they do not have any photos of a suspect available to release to the public.
for more features.