Watch CBS News

Self-Inflicted Shooting Triggered Great Mall Chaos; Thousands Terrified, Forced To Shelter-In-Place

MILPITAS (CBS SF) -- A shooting at the Great Mall that left thousands emotionally distressed, sheltering-in-place, calling home to tell families they loved them was the result of a self-inflicted wound and not the work of a random gunman, authorities announced Sunday.

At about 5:16 p.m. Saturday, officers responded to numerous reports of shots fired inside the Great Mall located at 1100 Great Mall Drive in Milpitas.

When they arrived, they found a 22-year-old San Francisco man suffering from a non-life-threatening gunshot wound. He was transported by paramedics to a local hospital.

Several law enforcement agencies responded to the Great Mall to assist. The stores were asked to shelter in place while the interior of the mall was evacuated and searched by SWAT teams for suspects and any additional victims.

Two unrelated medical emergencies occurred during the evacuation. Both victims were transported to a local hospital by paramedics.

Officers completed the search at 9:26 p.m. with no gunman being located. Further investigation overnight by detectives determined that the 22-year-old man sustained a self-inflicted gunshot wound and was not the victim of an act of violence.

The chaotic, terrifying event unfolded during the crush of holiday shopping on the last weekend before Christmas, and shoppers say the mall was packed at the time of the shooting – despite the stay at home orders.

Terrified employees and shoppers ran out of the mall only minutes after the shooting.

"People were running forward. People were running back, and people were falling," said Angelo Balma. He was at the mall with friends after a church gathering and said he was inside the Columbia store when he heard people screaming.

Other people hid in the back of stores.

"They just said active shooter and we just ran, and I just ran into the store because the Levi's guy said just run in the back," one woman said through tears. She did not want to give KPIX 5 her name.

"The people who work at the store told everybody to run to the back of the store, so everyone was panicking, didn't know what was going on," said Tiffany Shuler. She was shopping at Gap when she heard there was a shooting at the mall.

"We just went to the back room, barricaded all 3 doors that we had, and just waited for police to get there," said Cecilia Centenl. She works at a clothing store inside the mall.

Officers from the Santa Clara County Sheriffs Department dressed in SWAT gear searched the mall store by store. They even found some shoppers hiding in a hallway.

In video posted to Twitter by user OfficialLollyy, an armed officer at the end of the hallway shouts, "How many people are in there?"

A few people can be heard responding, "40. Quite a few."

The officer then asks, "How many?"

The people respond again, "40."

The officer repeats it back, "40?"

"Yea" say the people on the video.

The officer asks, "What store are you in?"

They respond, "Guess."

The officer repeats, "Guess?" then tells them, "OK. Go inside and lock yourself in."

Witnesses say they heard multiple gunshots somewhere near the Nike store and a few minutes later, at least one man was put into an ambulance and taken to a local hospital. In video from the scene, it appears the man was awake and talking with emergency personnel as he was on the stretcher.

For nearly 4 hours police escorted shoppers out of the mall as they cleared each store one by one. Small groups of people huddled in the parking lot just behind the crime scene tape as they waited for friends and family to come out. They'd been separated from each other during the chaos.

"You just call your loved ones and tell them you don't know what's happening, but that you love them," said Cecilia as she choked back tears.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.