KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – A man was charged with murder after opening fire in a crowded shopping mall, killing a worker at a men's clothing store and sending panicked shoppers scrambling for cover, police said.
Police officers shot and wounded William Johnson, 42, who has been charged with murder, aggravated kidnapping and two counts of attempted murder in the Wednesday afternoon shooting, police said. He was in stable condition at a hospital.
The employee, Ahmed Nahl, 29, was shot multiple times around 4:20 p.m. after a confrontation with the suspect at Knoxville Center Mall, police spokesman Darrell DeBusk said. Nahl died at the scene.
Two uniformed police officers confronted the suspect as he left Reno Menswear store and exchanged gunfire, hitting him once in the arm and once in the leg, DeBusk said. No one else was hurt, and police recovered the suspect's handgun.
The two officers involved in the shooting were put on paid leave pending an investigation, which is standard procedure.
Witness Daniel Wiles, 34, said he saw a man about a hundred feet away with a handgun, heard nine shots and saw people begin fleeing for cover.
"I heard a single shot. Then immediately after that I heard eight additional shots. People started stampeding," said Wiles, who was at the mall to pay a cell phone bill.
Kay Jewelers assistant manager Cayla Corum said that before she heard gunshots a worker warned her to shut the gates to the store because of reports of someone carrying a gun in the mall.
"At first, it sounded like firecrackers going off," said Corum, 21. "Then everyone started running. ... I've never experienced anything like it in my life."
Corum said she heard two shots, a pause, and then "at least 15" shots.
The mall, owned by Simon Property Group of Indianapolis, closed early because of the shooting.
Mall manager Tim Hill said in a release that the company was "deeply saddened" by the tragedy, offered sympathy to the victim and his family and pledged full cooperation with authorities.