Shooting at Wisconsin mall leaves eight injured; police searching for suspect

Sophie Carson
 
| Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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The scene following the Mayfair mall shooting

The scene following the Mayfair mall shooting

WAUWATOSA, Wis. — A shooter opened fire at Mayfair mall on Friday afternoon, wounding seven adults and one teenager, officials said.

Witnesses described the shooter as a white male in his 20s or 30s, Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber said at a news conference. Investigators are working to determine the suspect’s identity and have not said anything about what may have prompted the shooting.

“When emergency personnel arrived, the shooter was no longer at the scene,” Weber said. Asked if the shooter was still in the mall, the chief replied: “We don’t know that.”

The extent of the victims’ injuries is not known, but Weber said there were no fatalities “that I’m aware of.”

Froedtert Hospital and Children’s Wisconsin were notified of a shooting at Mayfair mall shortly after 3 p.m. and both hospitals’ trauma teams were prepared to receive patients, according to a spokeswoman.

The shooting occurred about 2:50 p.m. at the northwest mall entrance, near Macy’s. Hours later, officers continued to clear the mall and had designated the At Home Store, 3201 N. Mayfair Road, as a reunification area for those who had been inside the mall.

Witnesses inside the mall reported hearing multiple gunshots about 3 p.m. that sent people fleeing for the exits or to other locations where they could safely shelter in place. Reporters at the scene and news helicopters captured video of at least four people being loaded into ambulances in the parking lot.

More than 40 police vehicles and 100 officers and agents from local and federal law enforcement — some in tactical gear and holding shields — could be seen outside the mall Friday evening.

“We ask members of the public to remain away from the area, and be patient so that our law enforcement personnel may secure the scene and investigate,” Weber said.

Later Friday, mall representatives released a statement thanking Wauwatosa police and confirming the mall was closed.

“We are disheartened and angered that our guests and tenants were subject to this violent incident today,” the statement read.

Gov. Tony Evers said he and his wife were thinking of those who were injured, and their families, and wishing them a speedy recovery.

“We offer our support for the entire Wauwatosa community as they grapple with this tragedy,” Evers said.

Witness accounts: ‘It was very terrifying’

Two hours after the shots, the area around the mall was crowded with law enforcement officers and concerned friends and family members of those who had been inside.

Waseem Dilshad said his uncle was working at a kiosk near Macy’s when he was shot in the leg twice. Dilshad’s cousin was also working at the kiosk and saw the shooting happen. He was on the phone with Dilshad at the time.

“He started cursing and yelling and said, ‘I’m going to call you back, there’s blood everywhere,’ ” Dilshad said. 

His uncle was taken to Froedtert Hospital and his cousin remained inside the mall, Dilshad said shortly before 5 p.m.

Cecilia Guerrero, 20, of West Milwaukee, took cover inside the OFFLINE by Aerie store with her sister, Anahi, a family of three and four store associates. 

Guerrero said she had been in the locked room since around 2:50 p.m.

“It was very terrifying,” Guerrero said. “I was very nervous at the beginning when we didn’t know what was going on. But now that I’m safe and no one can get in, I’m OK. But it was very freaky and there was some panic.”

Guerrero said even though these shootings are “more common” she didn’t think it would happen there.

Samantha Paul, 24, had just walked through the second set of doors of Mayfair when a stranger grabbed her arm and said, “Leave. There is a shooter.”

“I was shaking and crying, and I am still crying,” Paul said. “I am so thankful she grabbed me.” 

As soon as she started to run, she said that it seemed like hundreds of people were running toward their cars, where many tried to escape and others shouted at the police to ask what was happening.

“I never thought I would be in this situation,” she said. “I love Mayfair. Even with the protests, I still felt comfortable going there. (Now), I don’t want to go there by myself again. It was frightening that this happened at 3 p.m.”

Shooting occurred near Macy’s

Gordon Lugauer was in the back office of his Board Game Barrister store when he heard gunfire.

It was “sudden and abrupt,” he said.

He returned to the front of the store where his staff and about a half dozen customers had dropped to the floor.

No one inside was injured, but he saw multiple people wounded outside his store, on the first floor of the mall near Macy’s.

A person who had been waiting to enter the store because of social distancing rules was shot in the leg. Lugauer and his employees helped the injured person into the store to wait for paramedics.

Jill Wooley was inside Macy’s with her 79-year-old mother when she said she heard eight to 12 shots coming from inside the mall.

They dropped to the ground for a moment then ran in the opposite direction.

“Unfortunately all of us have thought about what we would do in that situation. Unfortunately that kicked in and we made it to a safe place,” she said.

When Wooley and her mother got out of the mall she said her mom was shaken up and police gave her a blanket.

“All of this has not sunk in quite yet,” Wooley said. “I think there’s a certain amount of shock that’s going on.”

Latest in string of shootings

The shooting at the mall marks at least the fourth time this year multiple people have been wounded by gunfire in a single incident in the Milwaukee area.

In February, five workers at MolsonCoors’ Milwaukee brewery were fatally shot by a 51-year-old co-worker who then shot and killed himself.

Two months later, five people were shot and killed inside a Milwaukee home in what police described as an act of family violence. Christopher Stokes called 911 and told a dispatcher he had “just massacred my whole family” with a shotgun, according to court records. Stokes has pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

In September, seven people were wounded when a car pulled up to a crowd of about 100 mourners gathering for a funeral on Milwaukee’s north side and someone inside the vehicle opened fire.

The victims — three women and four men — survived their injuries. The funeral was for a recent homicide victim.

Mass shootings typically have been defined by the federal government as an incident having four fatal victims, but other, broader definitions have included shootings with at least four injuries.

The shooting on Friday also is at least the third time gunfire has been reported in or around the mall this year.

In February, Wauwatosa police officer Joseph Mensah shot and killed 17-year-old Alvin Cole in the mall parking lot after police say Cole fired a shot while running from police. Prosecutors did not charge Mensah in the teen’s death and the officer has since signed a separation agreement with the force.

Last month, a person suffered a “self-inflicted gunshot wound to the leg” in the parking lot during an incident that appeared to be drug-related, according to Tosa police.

Mayfair mall in Wauwatosa has more than 150 stores and kiosks on two main levels. The mall, originally built in the 1950s, has more than 1 million square feet of retail space. It is anchored by Macy’s department store on the north end. 

Mayfair is managed by Brookfield Properties, a global real estate services company based in New York.

Contributing: Elliot Hughes, Ricardo Torres, Evan Casey, Steve Martinez, Sarah Hauer, Chris Kuhagen, Joe Taschler and Cathy Kozlowicz.

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