Fatal shooting at Mall of America sends Christmas shoppers into lockdown

Suspects at large after a 19-year-old man was killed during an altercation on Friday

Emergency vehicles at the Mall of America after shots were fired at the shopping centre in Bloomington, Minnesota. AP
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A teenager was killed during a shooting at the Mall of America in Minnesota on Friday that sent customers at the nation’s largest shopping centre into lockdown before the holiday weekend.

Police in Bloomington said the victim was a 19-year-old man. A bystander’s jacket was grazed by a bullet.

There appeared to be an altercation between two groups, a gun was pulled and the victim was shot repeatedly, police chief Booker Hodges said. The incident lasted about 30 seconds.

The Bloomington Police Department responded to the shooting shortly before 8pm, the mall said in a statement.

Mr Hodges urged the gunman and the others involved in the fight to surrender. He also warned people against helping the suspects in avoiding arrest.

“If anybody helps these people — I mean so much as buy them a Happy Meal, give them a ride,” he said. “We’re going to lock you up with them.”

The mall was expected to reopen on Saturday but the Nordstrom store where the shooting occurred will remain closed, Mr Hodges said.

The lockdown lasted for about an hour before the mall tweeted that shoppers were being sent outside. Emergency vehicles had converged in the snowy car park and police could be seen putting up yellow crime scene tape near the Nordstrom store.

Videos posted on social media show shoppers hiding in shops, and an announcement in the mall told people to seek shelter. Some videos show shoppers running for cover after a loud noise was heard.

Jenny Hefty of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and her 16-year-old daughter had just stepped off the escalator to the mall’s second floor, in front of the Nordstrom store, when people started running towards them and screaming.

Her daughter thought she heard gunshots, although Ms Hefty did not.

“At first we thought they were just messing around,” she said on Friday night. “It was like ‘why are all these kids running by us?’”

Retailers began shutting their doors and her husband told them to run as armed guards rushed towards Nordstrom, where Ms Hefty had been trying perfume about 20 minutes earlier.

The three raced to their hotel in the mall complex and tried to reach the couple’s 18-year-old daughter, 21-year-old son and their friends by phone. They had been shut inside stores or taken to safety as the mall was locked down.

Since it opened in 1992, the Mall of America has been a tourist destination and community gathering spot. It bans guns on the premises but shoppers have generally not been required to pass through metal detectors. The mall said in October that it was testing a “weapons detection system” at one of its entrances.

The mall was placed on lockdown in August after a reported shooting at the suburban Minneapolis shopping complex sent some shoppers running for cover and two people were wounded last New Year’s Eve during an apparent altercation.

Updated: December 24, 2022, 6:18 AM