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Three Dead in Maryland Mall Shooting; County Police Count Shooter Among Dead in Mall Shooting
Aired January 25, 2014 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: So I don't think it's just sheer speculation. They've got enough investigation that's been conducted by his people to make a determination that that one person or one or more persons that are dead at the scene, that's all they're looking for. That there's no one else involved, no one else at large with a gun that poses any other danger either in the mall or out in the parking lot or anywhere else.
So I think that was a pretty clear statement on his part that the danger is over, that the scene is contained. It's now a crime scene. And I think that that's one of the most exceptional press conferences by a law enforcement executive I've seen in a long time.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: What do you mean? What was so prominent to you?
FUENTES: The fact he put out that much information two hours after the event happened, it's clear his staff working inside are being very methodical, conducting a very professional operation, the investigation itself as well as the marshaling all of the other agencies to work for them, that's ongoing.
So I think that he has a, has shown great professionalism personally and his agency, and the Howard County sheriff's department. So that was a lot of information to put out. And I think, also, the fact of promising to be back in a little over two hours with more information, a promise to come back with facts that were asked during the questioning period, I think he did a very good job in putting out a lot of information in a hurry.
In fact, Howard County police saying 4:00 will be its next briefing there before the cameras outside the mall, if not sooner. So you feel that they've been able to learn a lot in a short amount of time. Even the police chief kept saying, just a little over two hours, and already we're able to assess it thus far. But then what is your unknown in your view that you can tell right now that they'll be working on to try to nail down?
FUENTES: I think first of all verifying that the person didn't have other encouragement or other people that were knowledgeable of this before he went and committed the act. But, also, you know, there's a lot of effort going to be done to try determine what was the motive of this. What was the reason this person went into that location? Was it strictly a personal matter with another employee or another friend of his, maybe? Was it workplace violence? Or, as we've seen in so many of these cases, was it just a mentally disturbed person who just randomly went in there with no known motive, no known reason to pick out the victims that were picked out, and conduct this horrible act?
So those are questions. They hope to find out the motive. They may never know. This could be another case where we never know why the person went in there and opened fire.
WHITFIELD: And as yet, according to the police chief, Bill McMahon, just moments ago saying they have uncovered no motive. And, again, they continue to try to secure the mall. Tom Fuentes, thank you so much. I know you're not going to go far, because we may call upon you again very soon.
Erin McPike, our CNN correspondent, is there outside of the mall. Erin, I just want to remind people at home, there is a very lengthy delay in our communication now, so there may about great pause before you hear Erin speaking after I have stopped speaking. So, Erin, what more can you tell us? Have you seen a lot more people being escorted out, exiting that mall as they try to secure that mall of 200 stores?
ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, we have seen people come out in front of the J.C. Penney, but a lot of the activity has been around the Sears area. We also understand that a lot of people were taken to a theater which is on the other side of the mall, and people who came out on that side were going to a bar in the area. But they're removing people from the mall and taking them to other establishments so that they can meet up with family and friends, and, also, brief investigators on what they saw or heard inside the mall. That's what we've seen so far. We haven't seen as many people leave in the last half an hour or so on this side of the mall, but we understand it is happening a lot on the other side of the mall, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Interesting. It sounds like you're also describing, people are not allowed to drive their cars out? They have to be shuttled out of there? People have to pick them up outside the mall. So a lot of those cars are going to remain in the parking lot?
MCPIKE: Well, that's right. And there are lots of cars around, just outside the police tape. Now, when we first arrived about an hour and a half, two hours ago there were a number of people sitting inside their cars, waiting for others to come out. Most of them have been cleared in the last hour or so. But, yes, we will still see cars in the parking lot as people have to go to other establishments and probably will have to come back in the next day or stow get those cars, exactly, Fred.
WHITFIELD: And the police chief said another brief will take place about two hours from now, 4:00 eastern time. And I know you all have tried, but, again, you're unable to actually talk to any of the folks, the people who exited that mall, correct?
MCPIKE: We have spoken to a few, Fred, in the last couple of hours. We are speaking to more as they come out, and as we can get to some of them. So in the next hour or so, I'm sure we have more of that for you, Fred. WHITFIELD: OK, very good. Thank you, Erin McPike. We're going to try to turn that around and get that sound on the air so that folks can hear what many of these people have gone through, what they're reflecting on right now after a very frightening, harrowing day at the mall in Columbia, Maryland outside of Washington, D.C., not far from Baltimore, Maryland.
Folks coming to the mall as they do most weekends, crowding the shopping mall, hoping to have a good time, do some shopping, spend some family time. And then at about 11:15 eastern time right there at that mall, shots were fired. 911 called. Police descended quite immediately and people started scattering. They looked for secured areas. Employees and shoppers alike sharing safe places in closets and storage areas, trying to remain calm and safe, not knowing what was going on.
In the end, police confirming three dead. Among them, one person who they believe is the single shooter in this incident. No motive revealed as of yet. The investigation continues. The mall still not secure. Police continue to comb through that mall and allow people, shoppers, employees, to exit in very small groups. We'll have much more on the situation there at the mall in Columbia, Maryland, right after this.
WHITFIELD: Shoppers and employees can't believe what they went through today at the mall in Columbia, Maryland. Shots were fired. Three people were dead, and a lot of folks were cowering in storage rooms and closets, just waiting for a safe moment to come out. Among them, employee K.T., who I spoke with earlier. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
K.T. EMPLOYEE, INSIDE MARYLAND MALL DURING SHOOTING: I was in the back of my store working with my other co-worker. All of a sudden two people just run to the back of my back room, saying somebody is in the mall shooting. So we go out the back door. There's only one exit back there, which is kind of stupid. So some are going for the exit. A lot of others didn't know where the exit was, going the other way and just hiding out in rooms.
So when we go out, there were people huddled around the end of the bathroom hallway, which is kind of goes out to the food court, and that's where the girl told me, yes. It was -- looked like the guy was either Latino or Middle Eastern, wearing khaki pants, and he definitely had a shotgun. She said it was either a shotgun or a rifle.
That's when I took the picture. That picture is taken right by The Great Cookie right near the bathrooms, and that's where you can see there's obviously one big hole and then a bunch of little pellets around it. So after that I went back into the hallway where deliveries are made, gathered a bunch of people, because, of course, there were women with their children and a lot of people were crying and all that. Got people out through the exit, showed them where that was.
And then all of a sudden, one lady, I think was talking to her husband, and she said that he said that the guy -- that they had got the guy. That's why we went back inside. Had she not said that I would have stayed outside. So I went back inside and just stayed locked in the store with me and some other employees. And we saw the cops just walking around the store, guns out. That's when we figured, yes, they must mot have gotten the guy. We were in the store half hour, 45 minutes, and then we saw the SWAT team. And they said, you know, everyone here, you got to go. And that's when they escorted us out.
WHITFIELD: So K.T., you were in your store and the pictures we just showed of what appeared to be bullet holes. There we go. We're looking it again. This was near the food court when you took this image, if I heard you correctly. But then you said you and others went back to the store. At what point did you make the decision to leave the mall, leave period, and some of you stayed in to, I guess, hunker down?
K.T.: When we originally left, I was trying to help a lot of other people go out. So I was just hanging arranged the back entrance waiting for word. We really didn't hear anything and there were no -- there were no cops in the back of the mall where we were exiting at. There were none back there. So there was nobody to tell us not to go back into the mall.
So like I said, when the other lady said she talked to her husband and she heard they got the guy, that's when I said, OK. Let me go balance inside, get my belongings. And then that's when I thought, wow. They didn't find the guy. That's when we were hanging out there.
WHITFIELD: So how frightened were you through all this?
K.T.: I mean -- I guess as frightened as you can be. I mean, if god's going to take me off the earth, he's going to take me. So can't be too scared.
WHITFIELD: This is -- I know this mall, at least as a kid, I frequented that mall. And it's certainly a place that I would feel safe at all times. And I imagine, you know, for you, you're working there on a busy Saturday. You know, you know what a Saturday looks like there, an awful lot of people at this mall. But when you heard the shots fired, did it seem as though people knew what to do in terms of trying to find a safe place, trying to find a place to, you know, cower, to be safe? Or did people -- you know, seem to be panicking? Give me an idea.
K.T.: Of course not. You know, it's a mall shooting. Nobody knows what's going on. Of course, in today's world that we live in, when you hear gunshots, you run. You know, there's nothing else to do. So people were, you know, just started dipping.
WHITFIELD: And for those who decide to, you know, find safe place in storage rooms and closets, et cetera, how concerned or frightened were you about whether, you know, police would know that you are trying to save yourself, save others? Or whether you were a suspect?
K.T.: That was the biggest concern, because, you know, a lot of cops, especially in Maryland, they got itchy trigger fingers. So they will shoot you no matter who you are. So that was a big concern, and, you know, this -- I mean, I guess what hurts you is a lot of kids were crying and mothers holding on to them, crying and shaking, and not knowing what's going on. That was the biggest deal. But for me, myself personally, it wasn't really worried about me. You know? I'll be all right in the end. I was making sure everybody else was going to get out there.
WHITFIELD: I'm amazed you had the wherewithal to take pictures of the bullet holes in the wall. What were you thinking when you took those images?
K.T.: There was a bunch of us standing there. Like I said, when we were back there and everybody was running, you know, everybody still kind of like, well, what's going on? All we hear is gunshots. I mean, just standing there, you know, we didn't hear anything as far as like anybody running through the mall or people saying, you know, hide, hide, hide. Move, move, move. So when I saw where the gunshots were, that was my first instinct just to kind of take a picture of it.
WHITFIELD: All right, K.T., quite the heroic employee there working at the mall in Columbia when that shooting take place. We're going to have much more on the investigation of a crime scene now. Three confirmed dead at that mall shooting earlier today. We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: Three dead, four injured at a shooting at the shopping mall in Columbia, Maryland, at the mall at Columbia in Maryland. You're looking at aerial pictures right now of the parking lots because every now and then you see a steady stream of people who are being allowed to exit the mall. Those people, employees and patrons who were inside the mall at the shooting that police are saying right now there is not yet completely secured the scene of that mall. There continue to be some people inside because they found themselves in secure areas. They tried to seek shelter exactly where they were.
So police are methodically now going through, interviewing people to make sure that they indeed have no other active shooters on the scene. But police saying very confidentially during the last hour that they believe that this was carried out by the hands of a single shooter, and the single shooter is among the three that are dead. Another press briefing will be coming from Howard County police at 4:00 eastern time, an hour and a half from now.
Meantime, our justice correspondent Evan Perez, crime and justice correspondent Evan Perez with us now. Evan what more have you learned about this now crime scene and investigation?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, the early indications, again, this is preliminary information from the scene, according to officials, that I and the CNN producer have talked to is that this may well be a domestic situation, a domestic dispute. That, again, that's the early information from investigators on the scene. And, you know, they're still doing some investigation. There's still a lot more that they need to find out before they can finally determine what exactly happened. But just the nature of the scene leads them to believe it might have been a domestic dispute. The shooter entered apparently and shot a man and a woman before killing himself at the scene there.
WHITFIELD: OK, and so Evan, we've heard lots of eyewitness accounts from employees and shoppers who we've been able to talk with on the phone, many of them saying, you know, it started like a lot of shootings in public places, unfortunately. They just heard the sound of gunfire. They didn't necessarily hear screaming or shouting beforehand. Heard the shots being fired and their instinct said to find a safe place. The police chief commended many of those people for doing just that, taking shelter in places. Is that where we are in this day and age? That people simply know instinctively what to do when in public places?
PEREZ: Yes. It's an amazing thing that's happened, the state of these things that we've had in the last year or two. But it is -- I mean, I'm sure, if you're in the mall and you hear gunfire, I'm sure that no matter what the motive is, no matter what the situation is, you don't wait to find out, and you certainly -- it's equally scary whether it's domestic or something else. You don't want to find out. It's instinct to try to save yourself.
But at this point it looks like the police have secured the scene. They believe it's going to take probably still a couple hours before they can get everybody out and make sure that everything is locked down. But, you know, they're not -- they're pretty confident, as you said, during that last press conference, they indicated they believe everything is security secure. They don't expect anything else to happen, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, Evan Perez, thank you so much, as you get even more information, please, let us know. Thank you so much.
So, again, the shooting taking place on a busy shopping day right there at the mall in Columbia, Maryland. This is right in the smack of Howard County, between Baltimore, Washington, and Washington, D.C. And certainly it is an area that people have always considered very safe, a mall that folks felt very secure and certainly nobody would expect something like this from happening.
John Matthews is with us now. He's the author of "Mass Shooting -- Six Steps to Survival." He's a former police chief. John, when people go to the shopping mall the last thing they're thinking is something like this happening. But we heard from the police chief that people just knew instinctively what to do. They sheltered in place, went inside closets and storage rooms inside the stores. Store managers pulled the doors and the gates separating their stores from the rest of the mall. But it seems as though we all have to be educated what to do when bad things happen in public places. What impressed you most about how things unfolded, the response to how things unfolded today?
JOHN MATTHEWS, AUTHOR, "MASS SHOOTINGS -- SIX STEPS TO SURVIVAL": Well, the majority of folks it seemed did take the right tactics, unfortunately because of all of these events. There's been a lot of press coverage and we've had a lot of media out there telling people that you can't hesitate. As soon as you hear gunfire, you've got to exit the area. You've got to get out of that shooter's line of sight. And you can't sit and think, oh, I wonder what that was? You've got to be prepared. I heard many of your witnesses say we won't into a locked storeroom or secured ourselves in a bathroom or hallway. That's exactly what you need to do, but it was kind of disturbing to hear some witnesses say that they went outside. They exited the building and were safe, and then returned back inside. It's almost --
WHITFIELD: That was remarkable to me.
MATTHEWS: That's almost like going back into the fire.
WHITFIELD: And so in the case of, say, some of the employee who said they left, and then they turned around and came because a certain responsibility is expected of them as an employee. Still, what is your recommendation? If you're already in a safe place, now out of the mall, it doesn't seem you would recommend to anybody to go back in where there is potential danger?
MATTHEWS: No. You'd never go back into the line of fire. and in many of these mass shootings, the shooters stop shooting periodically. They stop shooting to reload. Sometimes, many times, they've gone out into the parking lot to get weapons, change weapons, get more ammo. And then they'll come back and start shooting again.
So, no, the number one thing we recommend is that you exit the area. You do it quickly and safely. And you stay away. You stay far away, as far as you can. This is one case where curiosity may get you killed. So you want to stay away from the building, and not go back inside. There's no store, there's no employee, that's going to tell you, hey, you've got to do this and put yourself in harm's way.
The number one thing we want people to know is, they've got to be safer and react quickly in these situations. Now, I did hear several people say, we locked ourselves in a storeroom, or we locked ourselves in the bathroom. That's exactly what we want to you do. We want you to seek cover away from potential bullets, away from potential gunfire, and we want you to stay there until the police come and get you. Don't open the door. Don't get out to see if everything's OK. You stay there, because an officer with an I.D., with a badge, with a uniform, will come get you and say, hey, it's over.
WHITFIELD: Right, but John, here's the other crossroad and we heard it, you know from one of the employees. Sometimes you just don't know. You know, if that officer comes and if they're not in uniform, and they open the door, in the case of, you know, this employee and some other people, they weren't even sure if this was an officer. They weren't sure whether to trust. The one manager apparently had the instinct to say I want to see a badge. But sometimes you just don't have that opportunity ask those kinds of questions. So you're fearful. You're afraid to trust anyone.
MATTHEWS: Oh, and you shouldn't. You should stay locked, stay secured. That officer is going to have either his badge or his I.D. card. And if he doesn't have it for some reason, say he was off-duty and came in to help, he's going to grab another officer to let you know, look, it's us. We're the police. You're OK. And we're going to get you out. I think people need to know in these situations, like this huge shopping mall, we still have people being evacuated two hours later.
MATTHEWS: It takes the police a very long time. We have to secure every room, every passageway, every storeroom, and people need to know that when they go to get locked down it may not be for six or seven minutes. It may be for two, three, or four hours. But you've got to wait. You can't take that chance and get hurt.
WHITFIELD: And that is the case. Police say they are not ready to say that they -- they're ready to lift the lockdown. They have not secured the mall. They continue to check every crevice to see if there are people who continue to be in those safe places. And then, of course, they've got to question many of the other folks they see in plain sight.
Thank you so much. John Matthews, appreciate that and appreciate your advice. No one wants to think there could be a next time, but it is good to hear that kind of information, because unfortunately, in this day and age, we are seeing too many situations just like this. People in places that they think they should be safe, and then they are confronted with danger. We're going to have much more from the Newsroom right after this.
WHITFIELD: A deadly shooting in Columbia, Maryland. Three people in the end have been killed. Among them, according to police, what they believe to be the lone shooter. Shoppers simply couldn't believe their ears when they heard the shots being fired. Among them, this employee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA MCKINDLES, MALL EMPLOYEE: I never have experienced something like this in my life. I was standing there talking to a customer, and I started hearing all of this banging coming from the food court. I thought maybe they were doing construction or something. We do that a lot around here. And people started running saying somebody's down there and he's got a gun. And I heard at least eight to 10 gunshots.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: And it's been about three hours since that shooting take place, 11:15 eastern time, and there the mall still has not been secured. Police say they continue to comb the area, painstakingly, still interviewing a lot of the shoppers and employees who remain inside. But in small groups, police are releasing people from the mall. Earlier I spoke with Judy Hoffman, who at the time was still in her store. This is what she had to say.
JUDY HOFFMAN, SHOOTING WITNESS, (via telephone): Well, when I was in the store, I, all of a sudden, I was waiting on a customer, and I happen to see people running towards Nordstrom, which is one of the anchor stores that's close to us, and I said, what's going on? Why is everybody running? So I stepped out to the door, and asked one of the girls running, what's going on? She said, there's been a shooting.
And at that time, I said, oh, my gosh. I came in. I let my customers know that for their safety, they weren't allowed to walk the hallway or go out to Nordstrom, because I knew it was in the food court. So at that time I contacted our director of sales and let her know what was going on. And we were in the back room waiting. We turned off our lights and, you know, stayed in the back room to wait for further information while she was on, you know, looking at the TV, trying to find some information out. But the mall did finally contact us approximately about 12:30, quarter to 1:00 to let us know --
WHITFIELD: How? How did they contact you? What do you mean?
HOFFMAN: They called -- well, there's a service they have here, and they call and let you know on your phone if the store on your personal phone, but it took a while. I had to find out what was going on before. You know, they called us.
WHITFIELD: And what was the message they conveyed to you on your personal phone?
HOFFMAN: The message they conveyed to me was that, you are to -- there has been, you know, an incident in the mall. We advise you to close your doors and seek shelter in your back rooms if possible.
WHITFIELD: OK. And you already knew to do that, you're saying, though? By the time you received that, you already had that instruction from your, your store that you're to close the door, seek shelter in a closed room or closet, though, correct?
HOFFMAN: Oh, absolutely. I mean, that's the rule of thumb. You know, you close your door. You, you know, get people to safety. I knew it was on the other side of the mall, so I knew it was, you know, OK for us to close the door and, you know, make that phone call.
WHITFIELD: OK. And how long --
HOFFMAN: In the meantime I did have to call the police to -- I did call 911 to see if it was true. Sometimes you just don't know what goes on. If it's, you know, true or not, because I didn't hear any shots. That's on the other side of the mall.
HOFFMAN: So once I called Howard County police, they did say, yes, ma'am. Please seek shelter. And the mall did call back again, not too long ago, and said they will be around to escort us out of the mall.
WHITFIELD: All right, that was Judy Hoffman, who was still inside her store, last we spoke. Not sure whether she's been able to exit the mall, because, as we say, Howard County police say they continue to search the mall. They have not lifted the lockdown. They still consider it a crime scene and they still know there are people in secure areas that they have to ask questions, identify, before allowing them to exit.
So again, a deadly shooting taking place in the middle of a very busy day on Saturday at the mall in Columbia, Maryland. In the end, three people dead. Police believing confidentially that among them is a single shooter. We'll have much more from the Newsroom right after this.
WHITFIELD: In about an hour and a half, Howard County police in Maryland expect to have another press briefing updating us on the investigation involving a deadly shooting taking place earlier today, roughly about three hours ago at the mall in Columbia, Maryland. Three people were killed. Among them, police say very confidently they believe the single shooter is also dead. Earlier this is what police chief Bill McMahon had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN ULMAN, HOWARD COUNTY EXECUTIVE: We do have three confirmed fatalities, so we want to send our thoughts and prayers to the family members of the victims, the loved ones of the victims. I want to thank the public of Howard County here in Columbia for their patience, the folks here at the Columbia mall, for their patience. All of the shoppers, the other folks that work here at the mall, this has obviously been a tremendously trying few hours and we've seen a lot of patience.
We'd ask that people continue to bear with us. This is an active crime scene. It is going to be an active crime scene for some time, and we will give you another briefing around 4:00 with more details and potentially when the mall will be open.
Last, I want to thank our brave men and women in law enforcement here in Howard County who rushed into the scene immediately. This was an incredibly well-run, thoughtful operation tactically, with a lot of help from our neighboring agencies. We've had help on the ground and continue to have help on the ground from virtually every police kept in our region, including the state police. And we really appreciate that.
Now, I want to bring up our police chief Bill McMahon who's been leading this operation on the ground. Thank you. BILL MCMAHON, HOWARD COUNTY POLICE CHIEF: That, Mr. Executive. I'm Bill McMahon, M-c-M-a-h-o-n. I'm the chief of police here in Howard County.
Let me just echo a couple thoughts from the county executive before I give you some details. Thank you for your patience. As you can imagine, this is a very complex and trying scene for everybody that's involved. And I know it's also causes great concern in the community. So we again, we thank our communities for their patience and their understanding, and for our friends in the media, we certainly appreciate your understanding as well.
We are giving you and have given you information as soon as we received it because we know how much concern there is when something like this happens in such a public place as the mall. So about 11:15 this morning, our 911 center received a number of calls for shots fired at the Columbia mall.
We had officers quickly get into the area, and we were able to identify three victims at an upper level store in the Columbia mall. One of those victims appears to be the shooter. And at this point, and, again, please, bear with me. This is two hours, two hours and fifteen minutes into the incident, there's still a lot of details we need to confirm, but right now we think that one of the deceased is, in fact, the shooter.
We do not think there's any -- at this point that there's any more shooters in our around the mall. We are going through a process right now, and, please, think about this, on a Saturday afternoon at the mall, how many people may be in there. When something like this happen, people run in many directions and they also do what actually we have trained people to do, and that's to shelter in place.
So right now we have many, many people still in the mall that have secured themselves inside stores. Our SWAT teams with a lot of support from agencies throughout the state, at the local, state, and federal level, frankly, are going through, as we are holding this press conference, they are inside continuing to clear that mall, to make sure there are no more victims. We do not think there are but we want to make sure there are not, and to get those people that have self-sheltered in place out and make sure none of them have any injuries either from the shooting. Again, we don't think there are any, but also any injuries in the process of panic when people do shelter.
So that's what is going on actively behind me in the mall as we are out here. We do not have the identity of the victims yet. We do not have a motive for the shooting. Again, this is a two hours and fifteen minutes into the scene. We are still trying to secure the mall, to make sure, again, there's nobody else injured, and then we are getting our investigators into that crime scene to start doing their work, which will enable me to answer some of those many questions you have that frankly, I just can't answer right now, because I don't have the information. So I'll take a few questions.
But before I do, let me again thank the Columbia mall, who has been nothing but a fantastic partner. We have a great relationship with them and have actually drilled on this in the past. And that experience has been very beneficial to us. We'd like to thank, again, our public for their patience. We have disrupted a lot of people. I know there's a lot of people at home concerned about the well-being of their family who may be at the mall. We understand that, and that's why we're working as quickly as we can to identify the victims to give people a peace of are mind. We understand that.
And I'd also again like to thank all the support from emergency management, fire departments, again, local, state, and federal level. I'll take a few questions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you describe --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we -- can you provide the genders at least?
MCMAHON: I cannot provide the genders or the ages.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you -- police chief, can you describe where this exactly happened in the food court and what types of weapons --
MCMAHON: I didn't say it was at the food court. I said the upper level of the mall at a store. I'm not going to identify what store that is right now. Your other question was?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What types of weapons were recovered?
MCMAHON: Again, we have not gotten our investigators in there to identify all that yet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a sense there was domestic issue involved here?
MCMAHON: As I said earlier, we don't know a motive yet. I appreciate the question and I understand the interest in it. Please understand what we're trying to deal with. Our investigators haven't had a chance to identify people yet to even go to a motive.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have been speaking to witnesses. Do they give an indication of there was an argument, an altercation? These are people that somehow knew each other, or a random event where somebody pull as gun and starts shooting?
MCMAHON: I don't have that information yet. Our investigators are still talking to witnesses and I just don't have that information yet. Excuse me. We are very confident that it was a single shooter, that there's no other shooters in the mall or anything like that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was he engaged by --
MCMAHON: Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did law enforcement fire in this at all?
MCMAHON: We have not. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you describe the scene as you understand it at the mall, 11:15, did this shooting wrap there was a lot of people around? We've had people tell us they saw people drop, and --
MCMAHON: It was in a store in the upper level of the mall. You know how many are in the mall on a Saturday afternoon. It's a chaotic scene. I don't have all the particulars where people were when this happened. We'll get that to you as quickly as we can. Believe me, I understand the importance of those questions and we will get them to you as soon as we can.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you think the people in the mall did? We're they pretty well prepared, or how did they respond?
MCMAHON: I don't have enough information to know, but I sense that because we have so many that are sheltered in place, they did what we encourage people to do in one of these situations. So, again, two hours into it, not having talked to some of those people, some are still in there, I don't know. But the fact it's fairly -- we didn't have stampedes, and nobody else injured through the whole evacuation process. They were very helpful.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are the witnesses in the mall free to go? You are asking them to go to a specific place to be questioned?
MCMAHON: Our detectives are talking with the people as they come out of the mall to see what they saw and what they didn't and we'll continue to talk to them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this a situation where someone shot two people then shot him or herself?
MCMAHON: Two hours and 15 minutes into that, that is what we have reason to believe. But, again, very fluid situation. Many people have not been spoken to yet. So I can't firm that. That is certainly what it appears to be at this point.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was this --
MCMAHON: I don't know how many shots were fired.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was it isolated inside --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The responding officer, did they find all three dead at that point, the first three in?
MCMAHON: I'm not sure, but essentially they were all found them at about the same time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nowadays the presumption from the police department is to get in quickly. Was it regular patrol officers?
MCMAHON: Regular patrol officers went in. We also had some specially trained officers, part of our SWAT team, in this area for another assignment. So we were fortunate we were able to have those very well prepared, very well trained officers to support our patrol officers very, very quickly. So it was not a situation in which we were waiting to go in there. We went in there very quickly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have idea how long from the first 911 call to the first police officer on the scene?
MCMAHON: I don't know, but I'll make sure we have that at 4:00.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know who called?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was it isolated into one store?
MCMAHON: To our knowledge, all the activity took place at one time in one store.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To clarify what you said before, when the first police found who was hailed as the deceased shooter, he was deceased at that time? Nobody talked to him?
MCMAHON: That's what I understand at this point.
That's all the questions I'll take right now. Again, we'll be back at 4:00. Believe me, I'm very sensitive to the need to get these questions answered. We will do our best to come back at 4:00 and answer more of them for you. Again, thank you for your patience. Thanks for helping me get the word out to our community. Appreciate it.
WHITFIELD: That was the Howard County Police Chief Bill McMahon, that police briefing taking place a little an hour ago. We wanted to replay that for you those just joining us to learn that three people were killed at a shooting at a mall in Columbia, Maryland, outside of Washington, D.C., and also outside of Baltimore, Maryland. Three people dead, and you heard the police chief there say that among the dead was the presumed single shooter.
However, the mall is not secure. They continue to have shoppers and even employees that continue to be in the mall, and they're going through the process of being located, number one, because many took to shelter in closets and storage rooms, and investigators once they do encounter them have lots of questions for them before they can give them and all-clear and release from that shopping mall.
When people do come out of that shopping mall, we have seen in the last hour and a half or so they're being released in small groups. They're walking single file out of the mall through the parking lot. They are not escorted to their cars. Many of them, their cars are going to have to remain there at the shopping mall until further notice. They're being put on shuttle buses and then taken to another location where they have to make a call and get people to come pick them up.
But again, we understand another press briefing will take place, as you heard, in that taped briefing. A new brief is going to take place at 4:00 eastern time. We'll take that live, at least give you the information as we can. We understand that during that briefing we just might hear the identities of the three peoples whose bodies were found there in the shopping mall.
You heard the police chief saying that it appears as though the shooting tack place in a store. It hasn't been revealed what store. There are four anchor department stores at that shopping mall. It's a pretty sizable mall of 200 stores. It's unclear exactly what store that shooting take place, also unclear whether it was a domestic dispute, whether this was random. Still lots of questions, and still lots of answers that we're hoping to get during that 4:00 briefing. And we'll of course bring you up-to-date on that. We're going to take a short break for now and back in a moment.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. It's a crime scene at the mall in Columbia, Maryland, where three people were found dead inside the mall after a shooting taking place at about 11:15 eastern time earlier today. Police in the last hour and a half said that among the dead is believed to be the single shooter in this incident, unclear whether it was a domestic dispute or random act of violence here.
But nonetheless, there are a lot of people in the shopping mall, and in the middle of the day, at this shopping mall in Columbia, Maryland, a lot of frightened people. And many of the employees and the patrons there just simply took cover, and went to safe places in storage closets and in stores as soon as they heard the gunshots fired at about 11:15 eastern time today.
The county executive with Howard County, Ken Ulman, is with me now. He was at the police chief earlier that last police briefing about an hour-and-a-half ago, commending the fact that this has been a cooperative effort involving so many law enforcement agencies on the local and state levels. And, Ken if you're with me now and are able to hear me, do you know whether or not this mall has since been secured? About an hour and a half ago, police said they still had some patrons and employees inside the mall and were unable to lift that lockdown. What's the latest now?
ULMAN: Yes. Thank you for having me and thank you for your attention to this. No, our law enforcement folks are still going through the mall, systemically, every, combing every inch of the mall, wanting to check every room. And if you can imagine, a very large shopping mall, all of the rooms, dressing rooms, offices, throughout this mall to make sure that everyone is safe. There are a number of folks who are still shelters in place. And so they're going through our SWAT team, tactical teams, with our regional partners from a number of other counties and the state police, from the state of Maryland. So it is still an active crime scene, and they're still securing the mall. And the mall will be closed for the rest of the day and night.
WHITFIELD: OK. And then from some of the images we've been watching. We've been able to see small groups of people will be escorted out, walking single file through the parking lots. We're told from our reporter there on the ground they're loaded on to shuttle buses and then taken to another location. How long will people's vehicles be there in, you know, on the mall property? And is this, you know, fairly customary in your view, that people will be removed from the property and need to find their way home through other means?
ULMAN: If you can imagine a crime scene with thousands of potential witnesses. That's really what's happening here. It's such a large facility, and everyone in there as they're coming out are, our police department, our detectives, want to talk to them and see what they saw. And so many that you're seeing are being escorted to buses where they're being interviewed by the detectives to make sure that we're capturing all evidence that we can.
So it's a very, very large operation, and we really want to make sure we're gathering all the evidence that we can. And, again, I want to thank everyone for your patience, the mall employees, all of the shoppers, the general public. This is right in the center of Columbia, Maryland, a bustling area. So we know this caused a lot of disruption and we really want to thank everyone.
And I especially want to thank our men and women in law enforcement. It's really unfortunate commentary where our country is, but this is something we've trained for with our regional partners. We've trained with the mall. We know they're security folks. We know how to access their cameras and their surveillance very quickly. So we ready for this. Our folks rushed in very quickly. But again, it's a sad commentary that we have to train and be ready for incidences like this in this day and age in our country.
WHITFIELD: Right, this is a great suburbia mall. I remember it, Ken, you know, as a kid growing up in the Washington, D.C. area. Going to the Columbia mall was something we did, especially to go ice skating. A, you know, that ice skating rink I understand is still there. And I understand that this shooting may have happened near that location, or that some evidence was located near that location in the rink? Is that true?
ULMAN: Well, there -- it happened in a store on the second level of the mall. It's kind of a skateboard shop. And you know, a lot of the discussion about the food court makes sense because it's a store that's essentially right above the food court. There's a big escalator that goes right up from the food court to where this store is. So the sounds probably appeared to people to be taken place in the food court. If you can imagine, you've been there.