Monday, April 15

12 wounded, 3 detained after Columbia mall shooting: ‘Everybody started freaking out’ | Columbia News

COLUMBIA — Ten people were shot and two more trampled as shoppers fled after gunfire erupted at a crowded Columbia shopping mall on the afternoon before Easter.

Authorities learned of the shooting shortly around 2 pm April 16 outside the Gap clothing store in the popular Columbiana Center in the Harbison area, Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said.

Shooting victims were treated at area hospitals. Two more people were injured they were escaping from the mall. The injured ranged in age from 15 to 73, Holbrook said.

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Two gunshot victims were in critical, but stable, condition, Holbrook said. Nine others injured by gunfire or people rushing out of the mall were treated and released, according to Prisma Health.

Three suspects have been detained by authorities, Holbrook said. The shooting remained under investigation, but they believed all three people possessed firearms in the mall, and at least one of them opened fire.

Holbrook said the shooting was not random. The three people detained knew each other and were involved in some sort of conflict, he said.

No other details, including a motive, were revealed. No charges were announced April 16.

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Columbia Mayor Daniel Rickenmann said the shooting was one of those events everyone prays never happens in their community and it was awful that people out shopping on the eve of Easter found themselves party to such a tragedy.

“My thoughts are with those families, all the people who were there,” the mayor said.

Law enforcement officers and paramedics swarmed the mall after 911 callers began reporting gunfire. Police shutdown roads in the surrounding area as frightened shoppers who were able to escape the chaos inside the building sat in their vehicles or gathered in the parking lot.

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Authorities spent hours after the shooting checking the more than 100 stores in the mall. Employees and shoppers who hid during the shooting were told to wait for officers to escort them from the building 10 miles northwest of downtown Columbia.

A Fairfield Inn hotel on Columbiana Drive was established as a center to reconnect people with loved ones after the tragedy.

Holbrook praised the response of mall staff and security during what he called a “very chaotic” situation.

“Obviously it’s unfortunate that we have to do this, but you can tell that the training and preparation paid off in this situation,” the chief told reporters.

Zrael Harrari, who owns Dragon’s Breath ice cream shop in the mall’s food court, said he was at a kiosk store when he heard 12 or 13 rapid gunshots.

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At first thought, he thought it was a terrorist attack, as people began sprinting for the exits. Harrari said he tried to help someone who had failed him before checking on his employees in the food court.

Harrari said he saw several gunshot victims before police asked him to leave the mall.

Taylor and Erin Logan said they were clothes shopping in a Belk department store when people ran in reporting there was a shooting.

“All of a sudden, everybody started freaking out,” Erin Logan said.

The mall announced on its website it was closed until further notice.

“Today’s isolated, senseless act of violence is extremely upsetting and our thoughts are with everyone impacted,” Columbiana Center said in a statement through police. “We are grateful for the quick response and continued support of our security team and our partners in law enforcement .”

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Columbia police are asking anyone with information about the shooting to call the department’s investigators at (803) 545-3525.

reach Stephen Fastenau at 803-365-3235. Follow him on Twitter @StephenFastenau.

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