Mall Shooting Sees Multiple People Gunned Down, Shoppers Evacuated: Police

Multiple people were injured during a shooting Saturday afternoon at Columbiana Centre mall in Columbia, South Carolina, according to police.

Columbia Police Department Chief W.H. "Skip" Holbrook confirmed during a press briefing that there were no fatalities, but added that 12 people were injured including 10 individuals who suffered gunshot wounds. Two of the gunshot victims were in critical, but stable condition.

The oldest victim is 73 years old while the youngest is a 15-year-old, according to the police chief, who added that the information given in the briefing is preliminary as the investigation is still ongoing.

Holbrook also said that at least three people were seen with firearms in the mall and at least one fired a weapon. He confirmed that all three are currently detained, but they are treated as persons of interest and not suspects.

Holbrook said that police believe that the situation wasn't "random" and that the armed individuals knew each other and engaged in "some type of conflict" that escalated to gunfire. He added that there were multiple rounds of gunshots fired.

"This was not a situation where we had some random person show up at a mall to discharge a firearm [and] injure people," he said. No details were revealed about the type of firearms used.

Mall Shooting Sees Multiple People Gunned Down
A number of individuals have been injured during a mall shooting in South Carolina Saturday afternoon. Above, police tape surrounds an area at a residential complex in the Bridgeport neighborhood on June 23, 2021 in Chicago. PHOTO BY SCOTT OLSON/GETTY IMAGES

The police chief called the situation "chaotic," but that the fire department was "instrumental in scene management assisting us. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder with law enforcement in the chaos."

Holbrook also asked the public to stay out of the area since there are still law enforcement teams inside the mall helping to clear out the stores and evacuate employees, who were asked to shelter in place.

"We know a lot of people saw a lot of different things," Holbrook said. "We're asking please take a moment [and] collect your thoughts and reach out to law enforcement."

Earlier on Saturday afternoon, the Columbia Police Department tweeted: "We have confirmed that people have been injured during the incident — they are receiving medical attention. The extent of injuries unknown at this time. #ColumbiaPDSC officers have been evacuating the mall and getting people to safety."

The mall's main entrance on Harbison Boulevard has been closed, according to WIS 10 News.

Meanwhile, Fox Carolina News reporter Cody Alcorn reported in a tweet that one woman has been shot in the shoulder at the mall, according to the victim's boyfriend's mother.

"She is going to make [a] full recovery. She was shot in [the] shoulder," the mother said of the victim. "She will not need any surgery. She was outside, leaving [the] mall."

Alcorn also reported that another victim was shot in the back of the leg and was transferred to the hospital by his wife.

Police also warned mall employees not to leave the area inside the mall in which they are sheltering in place for safety.

"Employees inside the mall who were told to shelter in place for safety, law enforcement officers will come to you as a protected escort. DO NOT leave a store until told to do so by proper authorities," the Columbia Police Department said in another tweet.

Columbia Police Deputy Chief Melron Kelly said that police were "going store to store and closet to closet searching for someone with a weapon," The State reported.

A security guard at the mall identified as J. Canty told The State that it continues to be an active shooting situation, with the belief that there is one or more shooters possibly still inside the mall. He also said the lockdown could last for hours while officers try to evacuate the mall.

Cindy Rectenwald, one of the individuals who was present at the mall, said she was at the food court with her daughter when the shooting began.

Rectenwald told The State that they thought the gunshots were the sound of rain hitting the glass roof of the mall until they saw people, who were "screaming and yelling," as they ran towards the exit doors in the food court.

She then fled the area with the crowd and got under a table for a moment when the firing had stopped.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division SWAT and regional agents are also helping police.

The Columbia Police Department also tweeted: "if you need to pick up loved ones, the reunification area is 320 Columbiana Drive - Fairfield Inn . We are working on a transit option to take people who may still be near the mall to the reunification area."

Newsweek reached out to the Columbia Police Department for comment.

Update 4/16/22, 6:01 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information and background.