Bloomington police said Tuesday that they had arrested another man in connection with the New Year's Eve shooting at the Mall of America that left many customers .
The New Year's Eve shooting at the Mall of America left many customers not only shaken but critical of miscommunication during the resulting lockdown.
Bloomington police said Tuesday that they arrested another man in connection with the shooting.
When a gunshot rang out Friday, wounding two on the mall's third floor, shoppers were told over the loudspeaker system to seek shelter in the nearest store. Officers were dispatched at 4:50 p.m. to look for the shooter.
But just as the response got underway, some customers were allowed to exit stores during the active shooter lockdown. And dozens of customers were asking why they were still hiding in the back of a store when Bloomington police tweeted at 5:42 p.m. that the lockdown had been lifted.
"There were people running out with fear on their face, while other people were walking in oblivious," said Samantha Lee Pree-Gonzalez of Minneapolis, who left her house with shampoo still in her hair to pick up her teenage son at the mall after he texted her about the lockdown.
"This is an issue of a breakdown in communication internally between the stores and their ability to communicate what was happening to customers," said Pree-Gonzalez, who has a background in emergency management.
Bloomington Mayor Tim Busse said most of the people he's heard from praised law enforcement's prompt response. But he also has heard a number of comments online from customers who felt they were left in the dark about the lockdown.
"The fact that it was New Year's Eve and the number of people who were there, the time of day, I don't know what it might have added to the confusion," Busse said.
Interim Police Chief Mike Hartley told the City Council on Monday that officers were on the scene "within about 30 seconds" and that extra officers were on hand because of the holiday.
Hartley said the bullet wounded one person in the leg, ricocheted and then hit another person who wasn't taken to the hospital, and he updated the council on the investigation that led to the arrest of the first suspect, a 19-year-old St. Paul man.
The second arrest on Tuesday involved an 18-year-old St. Paul man, found on the 2600 block of Rice Street in Roseville, according to a news release. A firearm was recovered at the scene. He is booked on first-degree assault.
Hartley said that police and mall officers train extensively for such incidents.
"There was already a secure scene; a lockdown had been put in place where I think a majority of the shoppers and guests at the mall participated in for their own safety," he said. After about 45 minutes, he said, the "lockdown was released and people were free."
Council Member Shawn Nelson became emotional as he thanked Hartley for the fast response. He said his daughter works at the mall. "We have a lot of family members that work there and support that place," he said. "My daughter was getting text messages from co-workers during the incident and [didn't know] what's going on, and so, a little bit of a scary situation, but [it] sounds like a positive resolution."
Peighton Carter, a 35-year-old single mother of two from Eau Claire, Wis., had made dining reservations and sought shelter in the Amazon store when the lockdown announcement blared in the mall. But minutes into the lockdown, she said, employees let her leave.
Carter noticed other people, some with children, walking around, but when she got to Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for dinner, the door was locked and she wasn't allowed inside for several minutes until the manager told her to move to the back of the restaurant.
"There was a failure in this communication that could've gone so bad," said Carter, a disabled veteran who has dealt with PTSD for 17 years. "I was having nightmares about this and how bad it could've gotten."
Pree-Gonzalez said her son had also been allowed to leave Amazon. In a statement, Amazon spokesperson Betsy Harden said that "customers were informed of the situation and those who chose to remain in the store did so until it was safely cleared by law enforcement."
Busse said he understands the shooting was traumatic for those at the mall. Until now, the mall has seen three shootings, none resulting in death.
About six months after the mall opened, three young men were arrested in February 1993 for wounding a worker and two others in what was then the Camp Snoopy amusement park. A teenager told police the suspects had tried to steal his jacket and fired shots when he refused. In response, the mall hired more security officers and increased security hours.
Two other shootings occurred at the mall: in December 1992, when an off-duty Minneapolis police officer fired four shots in a mall parking ramp after being ejected from a bar, and in January 1999, when shots were exchanged in the mall by two groups in a confrontation. No one was injured in either shooting.
Mall officials declined Tuesday to say whether they're re-examining active shooter procedures. Spokesman Dan Jasper wrote in an e-mail that the mall doesn't "share specific changes to security protocols."
"We are a unique property — and we protect it that way," Jasper wrote, adding that security practices include training, K-9 units, specialty teams, crisis planning and monthly propertywide lockdown drills.
Staff reporter Alex Chhith contributed to this report.