On one of the busiest shopping days of the year, a verbal altercation between two groups of young men quickly turned into gunfire inside the Mall of America on Friday night, turning the sprawling complex retail and entertainment company in Bloomington, Minnesota into a chaotic crime. scene where a 19-year-old lay dead, authorities said.
The shooting came at a precarious time for the mall, the nation’s largest, which has considered new security measures, including the installation of metal detectors, at a time of growing concern over gun violence .
Bloomington Police Department Chief Booker Hodges said he could not remember another fatal shooting at the sprawling mall, which welcomes millions of visitors each year with its hundreds of stores and businesses. attractions like the Nickelodeon Universe indoor theme park and the Sea Life Aquarium. .
“We had 16 cops in the mall, and they still decide to do it,” Chief Hodges said. “I am at a loss.”
The shooting happened shortly before 8 p.m. at a Nordstrom store when the two groups – between five and nine people – got into a verbal argument which, in about 30 seconds, turned deadly when shots rang out, causing panicked shoppers to flee, Chief Hodges said.
A bullet grazed the jacket of a passerby, he added.
The victim was not immediately identified Friday night and authorities were still looking for the suspects, Chief Hodges said.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” he said. “I mean, I can’t even think of another word. It’s just stupid.
He added that he felt for the victim’s family. “I mean, it’s before Christmas, and now they have to bury someone close to them,” Chief Hodges said.
The Mall of America, which was locked down after the shooting and then closed for the evening, bans guns on its premises.
Chief Hodges sounded exasperated on Friday when asked how to prevent another violent episode at one of the state’s most popular destinations.
“If someone is going to have a blatant disrespect for humanity, I don’t know what we can do to stop some of these people,” he said, noting that he had been shopping at the mall earlier today with his family.
The Mall of America, a leviathan among enclosed malls, is about 10 miles south of downtown Minneapolis. It opened in 1992 with 330 stores and more than 10,000 people employed. According to the mall, more than 40 million people visit the world each year.
In addition to some 500 retail stores, the mall has 19 full-service restaurants.
Authorities say another shooting occurred inside the mall in August, also causing chaos as shoppers ran and hid, local TV station KARE 11 reported. there were no injuries.
On Friday, Chief Hodges appeared in disbelief that anyone thought they could “get away with it” fatally shooting someone.
“Make no mistake about it, you are going to be arrested and we are going to lock you up,” he said. “It’s just a matter of when it’s going to happen.”