Utah: 2 injured, 3 suspects wanted in mall shooting

by Kim Boateng Posted on January 14th, 2019

Murray, Utah: Two people were injured and three suspects are at large after a shooting at a Utah mall on Sunday, police said.

Police said a man and woman, both in their 20s, were injured in the shooting and taken to Intermountain Medical Center where the woman was in serious condition and the man was in critical condition

The suspects were described as wearing dark pants and light-colored hoodies or sweatshirts and police are investigating the possibility the shooting was gang-related.

Casey Fell says her recollection of Sunday afternoon is blurred by the pandemonium that erupted when four gunshots rang out at Fashion Place mall in Murray. But certain images are clearly etched into her memory.

The firearm she saw. The children who’d been knocked to the ground in the chaos. The blood on the floor.

“They’re like little chapters of it that you can’t get out of your head,” Fell, an employee of the mall’s Attic Salt store, said.

Police say a man and woman in their early 20s were injured in the 1:30 p.m. shooting just outside the mall that had shoppers and employees running in terror or hiding inside stores. Investigators are exploring the possibility that the attack was gang-related and are hunting for three suspects — men in their 20s wearing dark pants and light-colored hoodies or sweatshirts.

Murray Police Officer Kenny Bass urged people living in neighborhoods around the mall to watch out for suspicious activity but said, as far as he knows, there is no immediate threat to the public.

“It looks like if it actually was gang-related, then anybody living in the area does not have any personal concern,” Bass told reporters.

Bass said the suspects initially headed south from the shooting scene, which happened outside a southeastern entrance of the mall at 6191 S. State St.

Both victims were taken to Intermountain Medical Center for treatment. Cellphone video provided to television stations shows the woman had been shot in the right leg. It appears that a bystander uses a belt to apply a tourniquet. She was later treated and released from the hospital. The man appeared to have been shot in the back. Bass told reporters he remained in critical condition.

Fell’s coworker, Abbigail Loveridge, said Sunday had been a fairly typical day at busy weekend shopping until a fire alarm went off. Store employees initially dismissed the sound — it’s not uncommon for pranksters or smoke from the nearby food court to trigger the alarm, she said.

“And then I heard gunshots, and people started running,” Loveridge said, her voice breaking with emotion as she described the chaos. “Multiple people, women and children, were getting trampled. Especially little kids.”

Fell and Loveridge said they darted out of their store’s side door toward the food court, where they encountered the victims. But other mall workers remained inside during the lockdown.

Stella Fonseca, an assistant manager at Claire’s, was among those hiding as police canvassed the mall. She said store employees had been trained to prepare for a shooting situation, never imagining they’d have to use it.

As she’d been instructed, Fonseca turned off the lights and locked the doors, with her co-workers, four customers and a nearby kiosk employee inside. The group — which included a 9-year-old girl — then barricaded themselves in the back of the store, using filing cabinets, lockers and a mini fridge to block the entrance, she said.

“Finally, probably after like an hour or more, they got us out and told us to come out with our hands up if we were in the store,” said Fonseca, as she stood wrapped in a blue blanket outside Red Lobster.

Police eventually escorted hundreds of people out of the mall, each walking with their hands in the air. Later Sunday afternoon, authorities allowed employees back in to gather any belongings they’d left behind. Fonseca, who returned to lock up the store, said the mall’s interior was eerie, littered with abandoned strollers and shopping bags that people had dropped while fleeing.

“It was just something we never thought we would see,” she said.

Ermiya Fanaeian, a student activist with Utah’s March for our Lives, was hiding in the mall with about 30 others for more than an hour. She didn’t hear the shots, but did see the police rush in.

“I’m feeling absolutely terrified,” Fanaeian told The Salt Lake Tribune while she was still hiding. “This should never happen.”

March for our Lives was a group created after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. The Utah chapter held rallies calling for new gun restrictions last year.

Loveridge also expressed outrage at the steady stream of news about shootings across the nation. A man was shot and killed at a North Carolina mall Sunday, and on Friday, a New Jersey mall shooting left two men in critical condition.

“I’m sick of living in fear all the time,” Loveridge said.

State Rep. Carol Spackman Moss went to the mall to do a little shopping and get some exercise when she heard the fire alarm. No one seemed to respond, then suddenly employees started shutting security doors and urging people to quickly leave.

“It is the real deal,” said Moss, a Democrat from Holladay, as she sat in traffic clogged by fleeing mall patrons. “It can happen anywhere, but it is really startling when it does.”

Fashion Place released a statement on Twitter thanking the Murray police. It read: “We are very saddened by the incident that happened outside our shopping center this afternoon. We are grateful to our security and the quick response of our partners at the Murray Police Department.” The mall will be open on Monday.

We are very saddened by the incident that happened outside our shopping center this afternoon. We are grateful to our security and the quick response of our partners at the Murray Police Department.— Fashion Place (@FashionPlcMall) January 13, 2019

Bass said police from agencies “all over the valley” flooded to the mall to help with the search on Sunday afternoon.

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