After two mall shootings in two days in the Kansas City metro, police are continuing their investigations and urging the public to stay aware of their surroundings in public places.
One person remains in custody in the Friday shooting at Independence Center mall that injured four people, including one critically, a police spokesman said Monday.
Detectives were expected to present the case to the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office on Monday, said Officer Jack Taylor, a spokesman for the Independence Police Department.
Meanwhile, two other persons arrested Friday have since been released, pending further investigation, he said.
Police were closely monitoring the condition of a 19-year-old pregnant woman who was critically injured in the shooting, Taylor said.
The shooting occurred about 2:30 p.m. near the north entryway to the mall after a dispute erupted between two groups of people. The exact circumstances were still being investigated, Taylor said Monday.
The incident was the first of two incidents this weekend of gunshots being fired in a mall in the Kansas City area.
At about 4:20 p.m. Sunday, three detectives stopped two suspects allegedly shoplifting from one of the anchor stores at Oak Park Mall in Overland Park. As they tried to arrest one of the suspects, a struggle ensued.
“The gun that was in the detective’s holster, some way or how the suspect got a hold of it and fired one shot,” said Officer John Lacy, a spokesman for the Overland Park Police Department.
No one was hit by the gunfire, and detectives were able to take the suspect into custody. The other suspect ran from the mall and was arrested nearby.
Police on Monday asked anyone in the food court area of the mall who took video or photos of the incident to call police at 913-344-8750.
“It is in my opinion that Oak Park Mall is still a safe place to shop,” said Lacy, who later added that he was there with his daughter a couple weeks ago and felt comfortable.
As of Monday afternoon, charges had not been filed in the incident, said Melody Webb, a spokesperson for the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office. Charges would likely be filed Tuesday, she said.
‘Be aware of your surroundings’
“We take these situations very seriously,” Sean Phillips, a spokesman for Oak Park Mall, said in an email. “In addition to our full-time third party security provider, we maintain a close working relationship with Overland Park Police Department.”
The mall’s security program is a 24/7 operation that covers the interior and exterior of the property.
“We evaluate our protocols on an ongoing basis, making adjustments as necessary,” Phillips said. He referred all further questions to Overland Park police.
Because of the upcoming holiday shopping season, Lacy said there will be additional officers there like they have had in the past.
“I can’t see us putting more officers out there just because of this incident,” Lacy said. He said the shot being fired on Sunday was an isolated incident.
The people inside the mall did a “wonderful job” by calling 911, Lacy said. Other things shoppers did included lying down or seeking shelter in stores.
“The managers inside the stores were able to get customers to the back of the store and able to lock the gates,” he said. “They are all trained to do that, so they followed protocol to a T.”
Mall officials at Independence Center couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.
People should react to situations like what happened at the two malls over the weekend that same as if they were responding to an active shooter event, said Taylor, the spokesman for Independence police.
“You want to be able to first off immediately get to safety,” Taylor said.
Whether you’re at the mall, a movie theater or grocery store, you need to be aware of what’s going on around you, he said. You then need to have a plan of what to do if “something goes down.”
“In this particular incident, you know, the plan would have been to get inside one of the stores where the stores could secure their area and isolate the threat from where you’re going to be,” he said.
That’s what happened Friday. Stores when into “lockdown” with the intent to keep the threat way from the people inside.
“My biggest takeaway from this is, particularly with shooting incidents in public, is just to be aware of your surroundings,” he said.