The Mall of America was briefly locked down Thursday after multiple shots were fired inside the Bloomington shopping destination.
Bloomington Police Chief Booker Hodges said the shooting was an “isolated incident” involving an argument between two groups of people. He said police believed only one individual had fired and there was no indication anyone was injured.
A few hours later, the police were still looking for the suspect, who fled on foot. Hodges said officers had believed for some time that he was locked up in a hotel near the mall, but that didn’t materialize.
The shots rang out just after 4 p.m. near or inside a Nike store in the northwest section of the three-level mall, scaring nearby shoppers and creating a chaotic scene captured on cell phone videos laptops that quickly spread on social networks. Mall security instituted a lockdown and large groups of shoppers crammed into the back rooms of stores.
“We can’t continue to have this disregard for human life,” Hodges said at a Thursday night news conference at the mall. To the suspect, he said, “Please surrender.”
Kate Rutledge, who had driven from Des Moines, Iowa, to shop at the mall with her husband and four children on Thursday morning, said she heard three or four gunshots.
She, her husband and two sons “ran like hell,” Rutledge said as they waited outside the Nordstrom department store. The confinement had just been lifted and they were expecting their two daughters, who were elsewhere in the mall and locked in another store.
Rutledge said she has stayed in touch with her daughters via text throughout the lockdown.
Hodges said investigators believe it all started with an argument between two groups of people inside the Nike store. One of the groups left, he said, but one of its members returned and fired several shots into the store.
“They decided to fire multiple bullets into a store with people inside,” Hodges said.
After the lockdown was lifted, the mall closed for the evening. Spokesman Dan Jasper said it would reopen to customers on Friday with an increased security presence.
Hodges said he still considers the mall safe enough to bring his own children there.
A short video posted for some time on Twitter shows a man walking towards the Nike store, then screams and the sound of three apparent gunshots can be heard. According to audio from the emergency dispatch, witnesses said the incident involved juvenile males. (The video was later deleted.)
Danny Reinan, 22, a college student from Minneapolis, was at the mall with friends when the lockdown was announced around 4:20 p.m.
“We were at Barnes and Noble, and all of a sudden there was an announcement over the loudspeaker that the mall was locked down and it wasn’t a drill,” Reinan said. “Staff rushed us to the back room, where we are currently waiting. Everyone is trying to stay calm, but you can really feel the tension and anxiety in the air.”
Reinan said about 75 people were in the small room. He said they did not hear any gunshots but saw people running away.
Bloomington’s Nate Nelson said he rushed to the mall after hearing from his 18-year-old daughter that she had been locked inside. He said she was quick to advise that she was safe and kept him updated with constant text messages.
“Thank goodness for smartphones,” Nelson said.
As the lockdown was lifted, parents, relatives and friends waited outside the mall as those who were stuck inside began to emerge.
The mall marks the 30e anniversary of its opening on August 11. It was locked up on New Years Eve last year when two people were shot dead during a fight.
In a statement Thursday evening, Governor Tim Walz denounced the violence in this popular destination. “These brazen incidents will not be tolerated,” he said.
Rutledge, whose family planned to spend the night in a hotel and shop again at the mall on Friday, said her 13-year-old son – who also heard the gunshots – had already announced that he wanted to go back to buy an Anthony Edwards Timberwolves jersey. .
“We’ll have to think about it,” Rutledge said. “I want to go home. But we’ll talk about it.”