Mall shootings are nothing new. Unfortunately now I have had the experience of being at two malls where there has been death and destruction.
While growing up in Delaware County I recall Sylvia Seegrist and that October 1985 day when she opened fire. It was around Halloween and she ended up killing three people and wounding seven others. John Laufer, then a volunteer firefighter, disarmed Seegrist. Laufer is now the chief of police in the City of Coatesville.
I remember days later going to the mall and seeing the ATM outside the Springfield Mall with the bullet ricochet marks still there until the bank finally replaced the facing. It was eerie seeing that realizing that people had been shot and killed there.
The Seegrist case brought to light the issue of those with mental problems having access to guns as well as the hope for better treatment for those with mental issues.
Today I saw a news flash on CNN.com that there was a shooting at a Maryland mall. I wondered whether it was the Columbia Mall. I don’t know why but I just sensed that it was the scene of the shooting. Sadly, I was correct.
According to the Associated Press, someone armed with a gun opened fire at the mall sending store employees and customers scrambling for cover. Police said three people died, including the person believed to be the shooter, in an apparent murder-suicide.
The AP said the attack took place at a skate shop called Zumiez on the upper level of the Mall in Columbia, a suburb of both Baltimore and Washington, according to Howard County Police.
Someone called 911 at around 11:15 a.m. to report a shooting at the mall. Police responded to the scene and found three people dead, including one person who was found near a gun and ammunition. No details were released about their identities. Police said they had confirmed the identity of one victim.
The mall is at the center of the town and typically opens at 10 a.m. on Saturdays. It was busy with shoppers and employees when shots rang out before noon, sending scores of people scampering to find the nearest hiding place. Many found cover in backrooms of stores and barricaded themselves in until police arrived, reported the AP.
At a news conference, Howard County Police Chief William J. McMahon said police are relatively confident that there was only one shooter, states the AP story. “We don’t know a motive yet,” McMahon said. “We are very confident that it was a single shooter, and there was not another shooter in the mall.”
According to the AP, the mall was closed to the public as police went store to store looking for people who might still be hiding, McMahon said. It will remain closed at least through the night.
People were directed out of the mall and into a parking lot, where some boarded a bus and others walked toward their cars. Some people were seen crying. McMahon said detectives were interviewing witnesses as they emerged from the mall to try to get a better picture of the events that had unfolded.
“I truly never thought something like this would ever happen here,” Cohen said. “It’s really, really shocking.”
I couldn’t agree more. Having been there numerous times the area is a very posh part of town. There are fancy high-rise condos or apartments and the mall is a spiffy place. The food court was amazing and this mall didn’t seem to be the place where a shooting would take place – but then again they never do.
I used to meet my son Jason at the mall when he was attended St. Mary’s College of Maryland. He knew someone who lived near the mall and they would drop him off there. I would meet him there and then drive him back home.
As he was always later, I would go inside the mall and just waste time. I would eat at the food court and sometimes even do some shopping. Once I did a ton of holiday shopping knowing he was running really late.
So when these things happen it just makes you think. You wonder what would have happened if this happened on the day I was there. Or the days when Jason and I both went inside to grab something to eat.
I realize that’s the sort of thinking that can drive you crazy but we are all human and you can’t help wondering “what if.” It’s a crazy world out there. There was a shooting the other day in Philly where a young woman was shot point blank because she didn’t give up her purse right away to the robber. So she died for $14. So sad.
All we can do is keep living our lives realizing you never know. People are getting shot in movie theaters over texting for heaven’s sake. What’s next? It’s scary but I realize there is nothing I can do to stop it. I just wish those responsible would stop it.
— Andy Hachadorian