A man opened fire inside a crowded Alabama mall ahead of Black Friday after getting into a fight with another shopper, injuring two – including a 12-year-old girl – before he was killed by police.
The gunfire erupted just after 9:50 p.m. Thanksgiving Day at Riverchase Galleria in the town of Hoover, about 10 miles from Birmingham, local reports said.
Police said the shooting frenzy began after two men got into a physical confrontation outside a Foot Action shoe store. At one point, one of the men pulled out a gun and shot the other.
“We received a call of shots fired outside of Foot Action,” said Hoover Police Capt. Gregg Rector, AL.com reported. “We already had multiple officers working at the mall for traffic control and police presence inside.”
The gunshots sent shoppers scurrying for cover and several police officers were seen with their guns drawn.
An 18-year-old male was also shot and rushed to a nearby hospital in serious condition, AL.com reported. The 12-year-old was rushed to the children’s hospital and is believed to be alert and conscious.
The gunman fled the area before he was confronted by Hoover police officers.
“One of our officers did engage that individual and shot him,’’ Rector said. “He was dead on the scene.”
He added: “We know the deceased was armed with a handgun and we know he shot the person who was transported (to the hospital).”
The gunman – believed to be a 21-year-old from Hueytown – was not been identified as of Friday morning.
Lexi Joiner, who was at the mall at the time of the shooting, told the newspaper that she heard six gunshots and was ordered into a supply closet for cover with other shoppers.
“This was my first Black Friday, I knew it would be crazy, just not this crazy,” she said.
The police officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation into the shooting.
Riverchase Gallery briefly closed its doors after the shooting; however, mall security said Friday morning it will reopen at 6 a.m. local time.
“We are devastated by the incident that happened tonight in our shopping center,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “We are working closely with the Hoover Police Department and are grateful for their swift action to contain the situation.”
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office will lead the investigation into the officer-involved shooting.
“We want it to paint a very clear picture of what happened tonight,” Rector said.
Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis called the mall one of the safest shopping destinations but added that violence may occur occasionally when there are thousands of people in one venue.
“If you look nationally at all nonsense, and I call it nonsense, that happens, for some reason, people think that when they engaged in some sort of altercation, it’s Ok to pull out a gun and shoot somebody. It’s not,’’ Derzis said.
Officials said there had been extra officers at the mall Thursday night as a precaution. Mayor Frank Brocato praised the police response, suggesting they may have saved others from injury, the New York Times reported.
“You just don’t bring guns into a crowded mall,” he said.
Thursday wasn’t the first time the Galleria has dealt with chaotic disturbances during busy shopping hours. Last Thanksgiving, Hoover police responded to reports of a fight in a store.
Reports of gunshots quickly spread, but they were deemed false and no one was shot.