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Police: Man Charged In South Hills Village Threat Believed MS-13 Gang Members Would Carry Out Mass Shooting

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Police say the man accused of threatening to shoot up the South Hills Village mall told investigators it wasn't a threat but a warning.

According to court paperwork, 51-year-old Lance Crowley was carrying a duffel bag when he walked up to a Macy's employee Tuesday afternoon and said, "There is going to be a mass shooting."

lance crowley
(Photo: Bethel Park Police/Facebook)

Police say Crowley left the Macy's and they were able to track him down behind the liquor store, and he was taken into custody without incident.

Once in police custody, court paperwork says Crowley said he was warning of a mass shooting because he believed he was being followed by MS-13 gang members. Police say Crowley told them it wasn't him but the gang members who were going to commit the mass shooting.

Police say Crowley admitted to drinking a pint of whiskey before the alleged threats. Court paperwork says his wife told police he has an alcohol dependency issue and has lately been hallucinating when he's intoxicated.

south hills village mall shooting threat (1)
(Photo: KDKA Viewer)

Crowley is facing charges of public drunkenness, terroristic threats and disorderly conduct.

No one was hurt, but a Brentwood couple is upset after they feel like the threat wasn't handled appropriately.

They were shopping with their six-week-old son when they noticed something wasn't right and now they're asking for answers. They said they had no idea what was going on the entire time they were there.

"The last thing I want is for him to lose one of us or something like that or worse, lose him to something like that," said Robert Woods.

Robert Woods and Ashley Welker are holding onto their six-week-old son Grayson a little bit tighter after what they say was a scary situation at South Hills Village.

"There needs to be better communication and some type of safety protocol," said Woods.

Woods and Welker say they had no idea what was going on.

south hills village mall shooting threat
(Photo: KDKA Photojournalist Aaron Sledge)

"We noticed Macy's is closing and I'm like, 'oh I wonder why they're closing Macy's,'" said Woods.

"Other than businesses closing, there was no announcement over the PA system or anything so that was strange to me," said Welker.

As police swarmed the mall, investigators say businesses issued their own voluntary shelter in place, but there was no mall-wide lockdown.

"Everyone that's there, their lives were at stake. We didn't know this guy, if he had any weapons. We didn't even know there was a threat," said Welker.

Turns out, police didn't find any weapons on Crowley. Regardless, Woods and Welker say the mall's owner and police need to have a better safety plan.

"Something needs to happen sooner rather than later if things like this are going to go down," said Woods.

Bethel Park Police Chief Timothy O'Connor does admit if there had been surveillance cameras at the mall during Tuesday's threat, they would've been able to take care of things much more quickly.

South Hills Village released this statement:

"The safety of our shoppers, retailers and associates are our top priority. Our proactive and preventative security programs and measures include off duty police officers and a private security force that actively patrol the interior and exterior of the shopping center, along with working closely with local law enforcement and retailers to prepare for potential emergencies. These measures have allowed us to achieve Homeland Department of Security safety certification. We are grateful this incident was swiftly handled by the Bethel Park Police Department, who did not order a lockdown since they had a visual on the suspect and were in the process of apprehending him. As a further enhancement to our security program, we plan on installing CCTV cameras before the end of the year at both South Hills Village and Ross Park Mall."


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