Officials say seven adults and a teenager were wounded in the shooting, which drew a swarm of local and federal law enforcement officers. Earlier, police could not say whether the shooter was still in the mall. Authorities said about 6 p.m. that the extent of the victims’ injuries was unknown.
911 calls came in just before 3 p.m. local time, reporting a shooting near the northwest entrance to Macy’s, Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber said at a news conference. The still-at-large shooter is believed to be a White man in his 20s or 30s. .
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) tweeted his wishes for a “full and speedy recovery” for the victims and offered “our support for the entire Wauwatosa community as they grapple with this tragedy.”
Some people were trapped inside the giant mall complex for hours. Dozens of vehicles remained in the mall’s parking lots into the evening, cruisers with lights and sirens blocking every entrance from nearby roads. They were part of a massive response that included the FBI.
Eventually, police said that the mall was “secured” but that their work would go on overnight.
“We will continue to work diligently to interview the many witnesses, as well as the victims who were injured, to identify and apprehend the suspect,” the Wauwatosa Police Department tweeted, adding that the mall would be closed Saturday.
Shopping centers are an example of “soft targets” vulnerable to shootings — places where large crowds gather with relatively low security. Last year’s deadliest mass shooting unfolded at an El Paso Walmart, killing 23 people.
Brookfield Properties, which operates the mall in Wauwatosa, said in a statement that it is “disheartened and angered that our guests and tenants were subject to this violent incident today.”
Shoppers recalled terror and a rush to get outside.
Kadijah Betties, 26, was walking toward Macy’s and had passed the Gap, four stores away, when she heard gunfire.
“It just kept going,” she said. ” ‘Pop, pop, pop, pop.’ Like 10 or 20 shots.”
People ran toward her screaming, “Gunshots!” Betties, trembling, sprinted to the nearest exit.
“Once I got in my car, I could breathe again,” she said. “I knew I was going to be all right.”
Others were less lucky.
Waseem Dilshad told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his uncle was shot twice in the leg while working near Macy’s. Dilshad was on the phone at the time with his cousin, he said, who started “cursing and yelling.”
“I’m going to call you back; there’s blood everywhere,” Dilshad recalled him saying.
Gordon Lugauer, 46, was in the back of his store — Board Game Barrister, right next to Macy’s — for a busier-than-usual Friday when the shots rang out. As three staff members and a handful of customers dropped to the floor, he said, a single goal filled his mind: “How do we get these people out?”
He hurried people out a door to the parking lot, he said, then realized one of his employees was missing and went back in to find the staffer helping a customer who had been shot in the leg. In front of his store, people were on the ground in pain, their injuries not clear to him — though he remembers someone trying to treat an arm.
Evacuated to safety, he said he was shaken but thankful for the active-shooter training that left his staff knowing exactly what to do. He was also staring down more upheaval during a crucial holiday season in an already painful year that has sent his business plummeting.
“We were just going about our day, on a Friday before Thanksgiving, trying to bring games, joy and puzzles to people,” Lugauer said.