By Steve Gorman
– Gun violence erupted at retail outlets crowded with post-Thanksgiving holiday shoppers in North Carolina and Washington state on Friday, sending bystanders at both locations scurrying for cover and injuring a total of seven people, police said.
At a shopping mall in Durham, North Carolina, a late-afternoon shootout between “two groups who knew each other” left three people struck by ricocheting gunfire and three others injured in the ensuing chaos, city Police Chief Patrice Andrews said.
One of the those wounded was a 10-year-old boy, but Andrews described the injuries sustained by all six people hurt in the melee as non-life-threatening.
She said it was not immediately clear whether any of the victims were among the individuals who exchanged gunfire, and that the majority of those involved had fled the scene, though one was taken into custody.
“This is not a situation where someone came into the mall and indiscriminately just began firing,” she said, adding that she expected additional arrests. One weapon was recovered, Andrews told reporters at a briefing afterward.
A department store employee who was working at the time of shooting told WRAL-TV, based in nearby Raleigh, that he counted six gunshots that rang out through the mall, triggering a stampede of Black Friday shoppers running for the nearest exit.
“A lot of people started running my way, and once I heard all six rapidly, I started to run, too,” he told the TV station.
The Streets at Southpoint mall was locked down and evacuated as law enforcement swept through the shopping center.
A short time earlier across the country, security officer shot a man suspected of trying to steal merchandise from a Walmart store during an altercation in the eastern Washington town of Kennewick, police said.
The shooting occurred when the suspect, confronted as he was leaving the store, pointed a gun at the officer. The officer then drew his own weapon and opened fire at the suspect, who fled the scene but was arrested at a nearby home, according to police.
The suspect, taken to an area hospital for treatment of his wounds, was already wanted on nine outstanding warrants and now faces additional robbery and assault charges, police said in a statement.
No one else was injured at the Walmart. Local media reported the shooting stirred panic at the discount store, which was evacuated and closed immediately after the incident but reopened hours later.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles)