Maryland State Police gear up as civilians depart the Mall of Columbia in Columbia, Md., after a fatal shooting. (Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images / January 25, 2014)
COLUMBIA, Md. — Three people were killed during a shooting Saturday at a mall in suburban Maryland, including the suspected gunman, authorities said.
The shooting was reported to 911 at 11:15 a.m., police said, and one of the three killed was found near a gun and ammunition.
“We are very confident that it was a single shooter, that there are no other shooters in the mall,” Howard County Police Chief William J. McMahon said in a news conference outside the Mall in Columbia, adding that it was a busy day at the mall with a lot of shoppers and “a chaotic scene.”
“You just heard people screaming, ‘There’s a shooter! There’s a shooter!’ ” said Tonya Broughton, 43, of Silver Spring, Md. “We just hauled off and ran wherever we could.”
Broughton and her best friend, Tarah Lancaster-Williams of Lanham, Md., were at the mall getting mini-facials at a kiosk when they sensed a commotion, though didn’t know what was happening.
“We saw the crowd running and we ran with the crowd,” Lancaster-Williams said.
She said she ran into a Victoria’s Secret store, where the manager closed the security gate. “I heard a sound,” she said. “I didn’t know if it was a shot or not. It sounded like a pop.”
Broughton and Lancaster-Williams got separated in the chaos and only discovered later that they had both taken shelter in the Victoria’s Secret. Broughton said she and others first hunkered down by the fitting rooms, then the manager ushered everyone into a stockroom and locked it.
She said it was impossible to know what was happening and she called her husband — and posted a question on Facebook — asking for information. “We didn’t know what was going on,” she said.
Broughton, with cream from the facial still on her face, recounted the ordeal outside the mall. She and her friend had left handbags inside, but that was of little consequence. “We have our lives to be thankful for, thank God for that,” she said.
Police had yet to interview or evacuate many witnesses still sheltering inside the mall.
Four people suffered injuries unrelated to the shooting and were taken to a local hospital, police said.
Some people could be seen leaving the mall Saturday afternoon, walking quickly past fire trucks and police cars crowding the snowy mall parking lots.
Earlier Saturday, a SWAT team dressed all in black crossed the same parking lot. They were later joined by agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The names, genders and ages of the victims have not been released.
Officers were still trying to secure the mall to make sure no one else was injured, McMahon said. Police were confident there are no other shooters in the mall.
The next news conference is scheduled for 4 p.m. Eastern Time.