Salem Police have lifted the shelter in place order as of 3:53 pm following a shooting at Salem Center Mall Friday afternoon.
Salem Police were advising people to avoid the downtown area near the mall. The mall is closed and police cleared the building, according to Lt. Debbie Aguilar.
Police officials stressed that it was not an active shooter incident.
Salem police issued a shelter in place warning for downtown businesses and residents for more than an hour, and said they were searching for a suspect in the vicinity of High and Chemeketa streets.
Salem-Keizer Public Schools locked down its Downtown Learning Center and Howard Street Charter School. Howard Street was on early release so no students were there at the time. Students and staff at Downtown Learning Center were safe inside the building but school officials told parents not to pick them up while the shelter in place order was in effect.
Multiple Salem Police Department units responded to the downtown mall shortly before 2:30 pm There has not yet been confirmation from police about injuries but blood was visible around the mall building and across the street outside Columbia Bank.
Police had roped off Chemeketa Street from Liberty to High streets and Center Street from Liberty to Church streets.
Witnesses report seeing groups of teens arguing
Amirah Montaner, 19, was inside the mall when shots were fired. She said she’d seen a group of kids walking around inside the mall for about an hour and then begin to yell back and forth at a group of kids outside the mall. She said she overheard someone in the group tell one of the kids to show the gun if they really had it.
“He shot four or five times before he ran off. I looked up and I see smoke coming out of the gun as he’s running and still shooting,” she said. “It took me a second to register it actually happened. I ran in the opposite direction.”
She said she didn’t see anyone get hit or appear to be injured.
“I think what’s the most shocking is they looked like they were about my age or younger,” she said. “He wasn’t necessarily even looking at what he was shooting. He was just kind of shooting.”
Crystal Garcia, who works at the mall, was sitting outside on the curb for her lunch break when she saw a group of 10 to 12 teens arguing. She said they walked toward the doors of the mall, and someone referenced showing their “piece.”
She then heard gunshots inside the mall. The mall was placed on lockdown and Garcia was unable to get back inside. She said she confirmed that her co-workers were safe.
At about 2:45 pm, there were roughly a dozen police vehicles on and near Chemeketa Street NE between Liberty and High Streets.
What looked to be bloody light gray sweatpants were lying on the sidewalk near the corner of Church and Court streets.
Sajal Hubbs, owner of Bollywood Brow in the mall, was working with a client when she said she heard three quick shots which she described as “so loud.” They felt nearby but she doesn’t quite know where it happened.
“It was so loud,” Hubbs said. “We just thought they were running and shooting. It’s scary.”
“It’s scary,” she said, tearing up.
When she heard the shots her mind went to the 2012 shooting at Clackamas Mall, concerned it was a situation where a shooter would be looking for as many people as they could find.
She said that it prompts you to start thinking about your kids.
“What if I’m the one who gets shot?” she said. “I’m a gun owner and this scared me so much. I don’t think I could ever protect myself.”
She was working with a client, heard the shots and the sound of running, and she and everyone in the store dropped everything and ran.
About a dozen people including employees and shoppers in the mall ran out a back door and then for a couple minutes they held the door shut out of concern that the shooter would follow them out.
She said she had never experienced anything like this.
“I’m a gun owner,” Hubbs said. “I can’t believe I got that scared.”
This is a developing story. Return to the Statesman Journal for updates
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism