January 27, 2014 08:09
Police in the eastern U.S. state of Maryland say three people were killed in a shooting Saturday at a shopping mall, including the suspected gunman, who appeared to have killed himself.
The mall in the Baltimore suburb of Columbia, Maryland, is just under 50 kilometers north of Washington. Authorities say they were alerted to the shooting by an emergency phone call in the late morning.
Howard County Police Chief Bill McMahon told a news conference the shooting occurred outside of a store on the upper level of the Mall of Columbia near the food court. He said the two people killed by the shooter were employees of the store, one male and one female, both in their 20s.
Media reports have indicated the shooting may have been a domestic incident. McMahon said authorities have no knowledge of that but are investigating. He said the suspect used a shotgun and had a "large amount" of ammunition. Five people were injured, but only one is reported to have suffered a gunshot wound.
Moe Moe Htun, an employee with Voice of America's English Web desk, was at a Starbuck's in the mall with her husband when the shooting took place.
"I heard bang, bang, bang, you know, very, very loudly, three times, and I thought, 'Oh, you know, it's from the construction,' because there's construction going on in that parking lot," she said. "So it was really, really very loud, and then it sounded like it came just across from where I was standing in Starbuck's in the mall. So then, just a few seconds later, there is a lady, and then she was running and then screaming 'someone is shooting!'"
Htun, originally from Burma, which is also known as Myanmar, described a chaotic scene. "People were so scared. You [could] see it on everybody's faces. People were just running out of the mall and grabbing the hands of their kids and just running out of the mall. People did not look back, just getting out of the mall as fast as you could."
Htun says she and her husband ran out of the mall and hid behind parked cars in case the shooter emerged outside.
"When I started running, I did not think twice, and I did not look back. I just ran, I was so frigthened."
Police were soon there to help clear people from the mall and announced on Twitter a little more than an hour after the emergency call that the shopping center was believed to be secure.
But that is little consolation to witnesses like Htun, who says she shops at the Columbia mall often.
"Now, I don't feel safe to go to the mall," she said. "It's like wherever you go, you have to keep your eyes and ears open, and then if you hear something, just don't think twice, just run because you can be a target."
Some information for this report comes from AP, AFP and Reuters.
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