TUKWILA, Wash. – Police said Saturday night that the shooting of two young men, one of them fatally, inside the Southcenter Mall may have been gang related.
“It’s a possibility,” police spokesman Mike Murphy, an officer, told the Associated Press minutes after officers completed a nearly six-hour sweep of the mall at 9:35 p.m. without finding a trace of the shooter, described as another young man.
But Murphy said police anticipated identifying the shooter “soon” and then making an arrest.
The mall was jammed with “thousands” of pre-Thanksgiving Day shoppers when the shooting occurred about 3:45 p.m., Murphy said.
The shooting victims were taken to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, where one of them died. Murphy said he did not know the condition of the other victim.
Murphy said the gunman used a pistol and fired multiple shots. He said at least four or five people had been detained and questioned about the shooting, but none of them was the shooter. He said some of them had been released. He said some were “witnesses.”
Murphy said the mall planned to reopen on schedule this morning. The store’s hours on Sundays are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
As police searched for the shooter Saturday night, they allowed store employees and customers remaining in the mall to exit in groups, Murphy said.
After the search was completed, Murphy said the assailant “must have got out with the crowd.”
The assailant and the two victims were all in their teens or early 20s. Murphy said no other people were injured.
SWAT teams from all over Puget Sound converged on the mall to help search for the suspect, who is believed to have gotten into an altercation with the two victims. But it was unknown what led to the shooting or the relationship between the shooter and the victims or even between the victims themselves. Murphy refused to comment on that Saturday night.
Chauncey Williams, a soldier from Fort Lewis, said he witnessed the shooting. He said he was coming out of a store when he saw two men arguing and then saw one pull out a gun and start firing.
“I’ve got the heebie-jeebies,” Williams told the Seattle Times. “It’s like I’m back in Iraq or something.”
A customer, 51-year-old Mark Nickels, of Seattle, described the chaos that erupted after the shooting.
“Everybody just stopped,” Nickels said. “Everybody thought something fell. Then a second or two later, there was a second shot and then everybody scattered. People were running to the (exits) or running to the stores to hide.”
In March, a 21-year-old man was wounded in gunfire between several people outside the mall. In September 2005, two men were shot and killed in a car parked at the mall during what appeared to be a drug deal.