‘Seemed like it went on forever’: Boise mall shoppers, workers deal with shooting trauma

·5 min read

When 20-year-old Ashley Uloth went to the Boise Towne Square mall with her mom and aunt Monday, she said it felt like a normal day.

They went to lunch at Olive Garden and picked up some items from Bath & Body Works. Uloth said she remembered crossing paths with a security guard calmly walking in the opposite direction. Her last stop was Kohl’s.

As the family got into their car, they turned to see people streaming out of the mall. Did someone pull a fire alarm? Uloth said everyone seemed panicked. People were running to get into their cars, even mall employees. A line of cars soon formed.

As they sat in traffic, Uloth said she rolled down her window. “What happened?” she asked a woman in the car next to hers.

The woman said she heard multiple gunshots inside the mall.

“And that’s when we knew something really bad must have happened,” Uloth told the Idaho Statesman on Monday.

In fact, what happened was someone opened fire inside the mall, killing two people and injuring four. The suspect later exchanged gunfire with police and was in critical condition Monday night, according to the Boise Police Department.

The incident left people sheltered in the back rooms of stores and fleeing, fearful of a mass shooting the likes of which Idaho has never seen.

Darkness, hiding under a desk and running from the mall

When the gunshots rang out, Karri Jernigan, 36, said she was washing dishes at Wetzel’s Pretzels. The lights suddenly went out.

“It was completely dark and I just heard this, ‘Bap, bap, bap bap,’” Jernigan said. “It was really loud. It almost sounded like a machine gun.”

Her co-worker came in and grabbed her. They moved behind a desk, crouching under it with two others.

“We wanted to hide from whoever the heck was out there,” Jernigan said.

She said they all nervously watched a security camera from their position. A mall security guard appeared on the screen, yelling at everyone to get out of the mall.

“We took our chance,” Jernigan said. “We ran as fast as we could down the escalator, out the front doors and to our cars. ... I was thinking ‘Please, dear God, let me make it to my car.’ I kept looking behind, making sure my co-workers were still there.”

Jernigan, who said she makes $12 an hour, isn’t sure she wants to go back to work when Boise Town Square eventually reopens. It will be closed Tuesday and maybe longer.

“I don’t know if I really want my job bad enough to go back to a situation where something like that could happen again,” Jernigan said. “That was one of the scariest moments of my life. ... It’s not worth my pay, that’s for sure.”

‘The noise’ made it more frightening, an Apple Store customer said

Downstairs from where Jernigan was washing dishes, Diane Green was walking into the Apple Store, hoping to get help with her iPad. She then spent two hours locked down in the back storage room with about 30 others. She wound up being among the many mallgoers who hid during the shooting’s aftermath.

Shortly after arriving to the crowded Apple Store, designed with a large entrance and no doors, Green said she heard a loud crash and five to six gunshots echo through the mall.

“The noise, that was what made it the scariest,” Green told the Statesman by phone. “It was magnified like 100 times in the mall.”

That was when the Apple employees jumped into action, she said, leading everyone into their large back room.

“We were just all really scared,” Green said, “We were all talking low and were upset at first. That is the worst moment I think, the not knowing.”

Green said for the most part, everyone eventually calmed down. She said Apple managers who were hearing from police provided updates when they could.

“It seemed like it went on forever,” Green said.

Eventually the police entered the store and led the customers out the back of the mall, she said.

After gunshots, the quiet will ‘be in my nightmares’

Unlike Green, Willene Griffin and a friend didn’t have employees or guards guiding them toward safety when the gunshots rang out. But they did have years of being teachers and conducting active shooter drills to prepare them.

Griffin said they hid behind a Macy’s coat rack near the women’s shoe section at first, knowing that was better than running if there was an active shooter in the mall. They hid for what seemed like an hour, Griffin said. It got eerily quiet.

“The thing I remember the most is how so quiet it was,” Griffin said. “That is going to be in my nightmares.”

Griffin said that while on the floor behind the coat rack, she squeezed her friend’s hand and whispered, “I love you.”

After a police officer came to get them so they could leave, Griffin said she still couldn’t shake the trauma.

“I am in shock,” she said. “My friend is in shock. We are trying to make sense of it, and I am going over in my brain what happened.”

Others at the mall reported similar feelings. They said they keep going over the tiny details of what should have been a slow Monday.

“I never expected this to happen here,” Jernigan said.

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