MOUNT VERNON, Wash. – A customer and an employee of the Walmart in Mount Vernon, along with three 19-year-old men, were injured in a shooting inside the store Sunday night, according to Mount Vernon police.
Officers were called to the store in the 2300 block of Freeway Drive for reports of shots being fired inside the building shortly before 10 p.m., according to the Police Department.
Maybelline Gonzalez, a 26 year-old Sedro-Woolley resident, was at self-checkout with her brother when she heard two gunshots.
At first, Gonzalez thought it was the sound of something falling off a shelf as employees were restocking the store. Then she heard two shots, she said. At first, her brother froze.
Gonzalez was standing near the entrance and said she was able to leave the store (without the glass cleaner or soap she was buying for her mother).
Police investigators believe the shooting occurred after a group of men entered the store and got into “an altercation” with another group of men already inside the store, police said.
A 72-year-old customer and a 24-year-old employee were injured, as were three 19-year-old men who had been involved in the altercation, police said.
As of Monday afternoon, no arrests had been made, according to Mount Vernon police.
Mount Vernon police said in a news release that there was no sign the men entered the store to create an “active threat event.”
Three people were taken to Skagit Valley Hospital by medics, and two others arrived in private vehicles, police said. Police on Monday did not know the conditions of the people injured.
After the shooting, around 100 people scattered, got into their cars or called for someone to pick them up, Gonzalez said.
Earlier that night, the parking lot had been so full she parked at the nearby Lowe’s. The area was locked down and her father had to pick her up, she said.
After the shooting, Gonzalez was wracked with anxiety and panic, unable to sleep. She said she experienced another shooting at the Southcenter Mall, and said that experience along with all the coverage of mass shootings in the news worsened her anxiety.
“It’s one of those things where it’s like ‘What would I do if this happened,’ but at the time you’re not really thinking about it. You just go and you try to run where you can,” she said.
After leaving the Walmart, Gonzalez said she started to think about where she could go if she needed to hide if the shooter came outside. At first, she thought behind cars might be a good idea until people started driving away. When she ran to a nearby restaurant, the employees did not let her inside, she said.
Rosa Gomez, 26, said she was in the parking lot when she saw dozens of people running and yelling while coming out of the Walmart. Gomez was about to buy groceries with her friend, sister and 6-year-old son.
“(I thought) if I stay, will something happen to my family? The first thing I did was grab my son and run to the car,” she said.
The on-site investigation was completed around 4:30 a.m. after police said the area was safe and all victims were accounted for. Police on Monday said they found a puppy in a shopping cart within the store. Police were aware from social media that a shopper was separated from their pet, though they had not successfully reached the owner yet.
Police ask anyone who witnessed the incident or who has information to call the 24-hour dispatch information number at 360-428-3211 or Mount Vernon police at 360-336-6271.
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