By MICHELLE LIU
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Police have arrested a suspect in connection with a shooting at a busy shopping mall in South Carolina’s capital on Saturday that left 14 people injured.
Columbia Police Chief W.H. “Skip” Holbrook said 22-year-old Jewayne M. Price, who was one of three people initially detained by law enforcement as a person of interest, remains in police custody and is expected to be charged with unlawful carrying of a pistol.
It is not immediately known if Price has an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
Fourteen people were injured during the shooting at Columbiana Centre, Holbrook said in a news release Saturday. The victims ranged in age from 15 to 73.
Holbrook said no fatalities have been reported but that nine people were shot and five people suffered injuries while attempting to flee the mall for safety.
Police said the 73-year-old victim continues to receive medical treatment, but the other victims have been released from local hospitals or will be released shortly.
“We don’t believe this was random,” Holbrook said. “We believe they knew each other and something led to the gunfire.”
Investigators believe that at least three suspects displayed firearms inside the mall but are working to determine how many suspects fired weapons. Police said at least one firearm was seized.
Daniel Johnson said he and his family were visiting from Alabama and were eating in the food court when they first heard shots ring out and started seeing people running.
Johnson said people were screaming for their children and spouses, knocking over tables in the food court as they fled.
“Everybody was trying to get outside,” Johnson said. “When I was coming out, you could see baby strollers turned over, people’s phones and left keys. It was kind of a hectic situation.”
Johnson said he gathered his wife, daughter and son and began heading toward the exit after letting the crowd clear out for a bit.
“My biggest thing was — and not to sound selfish — was to make sure that our family was OK and to get them out safely because this is not something that we love to do for Easter weekend.”
Heavy police presence continued in the area hours after the shooting, though officers began letting more traffic through the streets surrounding the shopping centers and strip malls that are usually packed on weekends. Officers were also stationed outside a nearby hotel designated as a reunification area for people at the scene of the shooting and their families.
Workers from a couple of stores remained clustered in the mostly empty parking lot Saturday evening, waiting for police to let them back inside to retrieve their car keys and personal belongings so they could leave. They said they did not hear or see anything during the shooting but followed the mall’s alert system and were evacuated by police shortly after. They declined to give their names, citing company policies.
“Today’s isolated, senseless act of violence is extremely upsetting and our thoughts are with everyone impacted,” Columbiana Centre said in a statement. “We are grateful for the quick response and continued support of our security team and our partners in law enforcement.”
The shooting is the latest in a rash of shootings at or near malls across the country.
A 15-year-old boy was shot in the head Wednesday outside Brooklyn’s Atlantic Terminal Mall. His injuries were not believed to be life-threatening. Officials said he was with a group of boys when they got into a dispute with a second group.
On Tuesday, a Southern California shoe store owner mistakenly shot a 9-year-old girl while firing at two shoplifters at the Mall of Victor Valley, police said.
And earlier this month, police said six people were killed and 12 others wounded in Sacramento, California, during a gunfight between rival gangs as bars closed in a busy area near the Downtown Commons shopping mall and the state Capitol.