There was an apparent shooting inside of a shopping mall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Saturday that sent shoppers and employees scrambling and stampeding for safety.
There were no reported injuries from either the shooting or the ensuing chaotic evacuation of the mall. Two juvenile suspects, who were found in possession of three handguns, were arrested following the incident, according to WTAE.
Fight leads to gunfire
Law enforcement officials told reporters that investigators and witness statements had determined that the incident began with an altercation involving up to six individuals inside of the Ross Park Mall in the North Hills area of Pittsburgh.
The fight quickly escalated to the point that guns were drawn and as many as three shots were fired, prompting a stampede, according to witness statements.
The two juveniles found with guns that were believed to be involved in the incident were taken into custody and investigators are working to identify the other individuals believed to have participated in the fight.
“Chaotic” search for safety
Local media outlet WPXI reported that Ross Township police quickly arrived at the scene and were soon joined by nearly half a dozen other law enforcement agencies in response to the reported shooting.
Shoppers and store employees described to reporters a “chaotic scene” inside the mall after shots were fired, as some people rushed to find exits while others hunkered down inside of stores and waited for an all-clear signal from the police.
Police officers and SWAT teams eventually cleared the mall via a store-by-store search, escorting people to safety outside after roping off parts of the parking lot and shutting down traffic on the main road nearby.
No surveillance cameras an issue for police
WPXI noted that Lt. Brian Kohlhepp of the Ross Township police took issue with the fact that, despite repeated requests, the owners of the mall, Simon Properties, had refused to install surveillance cameras inside of the main passageways of the mall, making it more difficult for responding officers to act.
As such, investigators are forced to rely upon witness statements, cellphone videos, and surveillance footage from inside various stores to try and piece together what had happened while identifying the individuals involved in the altercation.
“Tactically, it would have great for our SRT [Special Response Team] team to be able to have eyes in and throughout the mall as opposed to just sending officers in there blind to face the unknown,” Kohlhepp said during a press conference, according to Fox News.
“Our chief of police has even sent letters, I believe two or three times, to Simon corporate urging them to put cameras either inside or outside of the mall and they continually refused to do so,” the officer added. “Days like this are why we have asked them to do so.”