TINLEY PARK, Ill. – A gunman fatally shot five women in a robbery at a store in a suburban Chicago strip mall before fleeing Saturday, prompting police to sweep through neighboring shops as terrified customers watched.
The victims, including at least one employee, were killed at a Lane Bryant clothing store at the Brookside Marketplace, Police Chief Mike O’Connell said.
Officers found the victims at the back of the store after getting a 911 call around 10:45 a.m. Police said a bystander told them that a man came out of the store and gave them a description.
Authorities said robbery was believed to be the motive. Police searched for the gunman using dogs and a helicopter equipped with infrared sensors but concluded he left the stores off Interstate 80 southwest of downtown Chicago.
In a Target store across the parking lot from Lane Bryant, terrified customers were herded to the front as police with pistols and rifles drawn went up and down the aisles and into storerooms searching for the gunman.
“I was so scared I couldn’t think,” said Selena Kujawa, who had just entered the store with her 5-year-old son when it was locked down. After about an hour, customers were told to leave.
Kujawa said her son was still asking about the shooting long after they had gotten home.
“He asked ‘What happened to the people? Did they catch the bad guy?’ ” she said. “There will be lots of nightmares tonight.”
The Lane Bryant store was open at the time of the shootings. O’Connell would not identify the victims, but said they ranged in age from 22 to 37. Four were from suburban Chicago and one was from South Bend, Ind.
The small red and brown brick Lane Bryant is part of a cluster of four or five stores isolated on one side of a large blacktop parking lot, with big-box stores including Target and a Best Buy several hundred yards away.
Lane Bryant is part of plus-size women’s apparel retailer Charming Shoppes Inc., based in Bensalem, Pa.