The incident began at about 2 p.m. ET on Thursday when an argument started between two groups of people, prompting officers who were working off-duty at the mall to respond to the scene. “There was one armed subject that was shot during the altercation and he was pronounced deceased on scene by Medic,” the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said in a statement.
The sounds of gunfire prompted hundreds of terrified shoppers to flee from the mall or to seek cover in stores. Witnesses reported hearing at least seven gunshots being fired, but it was not immediately clear how many of the shots were fired by the armed subject. None of the officers were injured.
The Mecklenburg EMS Agency (Medic) reported that three people had been transported from Northlake Mall to area hospitals, including a victim who had suffered a leg injury, a woman who had gone into labor, and a patient who was suffering from an asthma attack.
Witnesses at the mall reported hearing an argument in the moments before the shooting began. The gunshots prompted hundreds of shoppers to run from the building in fear of an active shooter, but it appears that the shooting was an isolated incident and was not an attack on the mall itself. “This was NOT an active shooter situation,” police said.
CMPD chief Kerr Putney, speaking at a press conference on early Thursday evening, said that an off-duty police officer had heard the gunshots and responded in the direction of the shots when he encountered a suspect. An officer-involved shooting occurred when the suspect allegedly pointed his gun at the officer.
The exact motive for the shooting remains unclear, but Putney said there was no immediate indication that it is gang-related, though he did not rule it out. Authorities have not yet released the name of the shooter, though some media reports have identified him as a local rapper.
In the hour after the shooting, scores of people called 911, after which the Charlotte Fire Department urged citizens to use 911 for emergencies only. People with non-emergency calls and questions should call 311 instead. People looking to be reunited with lost family members have been asked to go to the AMC parking lot.
Northlake Mall includes stores such as Dillard’s, Macy’s, Belk, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and more than 150 other stores and restaurants, as well as an AMC 14-screen cinema.
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Photo of the gunman, moments before being shot dead by police: