Shoppers in suburban Oakbrook have recounted the moments after a shooting at the popular mall left at least five people injured two days before Christmas.
Moments after setting foot in the busy mall, a brother and sister said they immediately ran for cover.
“For a second I thought ‘there’s no way this is actually happening.’ I thought it was fireworks or something,” said George, a customer from Arlington Heights.
Her sister, Mia, said the manager of an Oakbrook Center store directed them to the back storage closet where they locked the door so a group of shoppers could hide.
Authorities say a police officer who worked at Nordstrom heard gunshots around 5:44 p.m. The gunshots came from a hallway between the store and Ann Taylor, authorities said.
Police say two individuals were seen shooting each other, sending shoppers fleeing into stores for safety.
When the officer moved to confront the suspects, they both attempted to rush into the Nordstrom store to flee the area. One of the suspects was taken into custody and the second, who police say was injured in the shooting, was taken to an area hospital where he underwent surgery.
Kat, who started working at the mall’s Paper Source just two weeks ago, said she heard the gunshots and immediately locked the doors to the store.
“It looked like it was right outside the store, but I didn’t realize what it was right away until everyone started running,” she said. declared.
The woman noted that she had been raised by two police officers and felt prepared for the event, trying to keep the patrons inside calm.
“Me and another gentleman, who was a customer, stepped in and had an unspoken thing like ‘ok, we get it,'” Kat said.
In the parking lots surrounding the outdoor mall, some families had long-awaited reunions while others waited for their loved ones to be safe.
“How do you explain this to an 8-year-old that mom is locked in a theater because they have an active shooter,” said Elmhurst customer Rich.
A third person involved in the shooting may still be inside the mall, and SWAT teams are going from store to store to clear the facility and check to see if the suspect is still inside.
At least three other people were hit by gunfire, officials said.
Two women, both in their 40s, were each shot once, along with a woman in her 20s, police said. Another woman in her 20s suffered a broken angle as she attempted to flee the scene.
More than 100 police officers are still at the scene, including several SWAT teams. NBC’s Sky 5 helicopter observed SWAT teams entering stores as they continued to work to clear the mall.
Police said authorities set up a family reunification website to reunite parents and separated children at the Marriott hotel across the street.
Brookfield Properties, the management company that runs the mall, released a statement thanking police for responding to what it called an “isolated incident”.
“Tonight’s isolated incident is extremely upsetting to our business community,” officials said in the statement. “We are grateful to our partners at the Oak Brook Police Department for their diligence in conducting this developing investigation.”
NBC’s Sky 5 helicopter captured the scene around the mall Thursday night, with emergency vehicles parked throughout the complex on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
An eyewitness told NBC 5 the mall was locked down around 6 p.m. because of the incident and said she was forced to hide on the Nordstrom reservation.
NBC 5’s Vi Nguyen was outside Oakbrook Center shortly after the shooting:
Police halted traffic in both directions on the 22n/a Street between route 83 and boulevard Jorie. Route 83 is also closed between the 22n/a Street and Butterfield Road, according to authorities.
Check back for updates as more details emerge.