Police arrested five people Saturday in connection with a fatal shooting the night before at the Mall of America, and Bloomington Police Chief Booker Hodges said all would face murder charges.
The victim, a 19-year-old man, was shot Friday night inside the Nordstrom department store at the Bloomington shopping destination, prompting an hourlong lockdown on one of the last nights of shopping ahead of Christmas. Police said the shooting was preceded by a disagreement between two groups of young men and juveniles.
Two 18-year-old men and three 17-year-old male juveniles were arrested, Hodges said. He said one of the 18-year-olds is believed to have been the shooter, but that one other person in the group may have also fired. Hodges said police are still looking for a sixth suspect.
The five were taken into custody Saturday morning at a residence in St. Louis Park by SWAT team officers from St. Louis Park, Edina and Minnetonka, Hodges said.
“In Bloomington, if you come here and murder people at our mall, you get one of these at Christmas,” Hodges said at an early evening press conference as he held up an orange prison jumpsuit. He said the suspects are refusing to describe what happened, but investigators believe it involved what Hodges called a longstanding feud between two groups.
Those arrested are likely to be charged on Tuesday, Hodges said. The victim’s name has not been released. Hodges said he and detectives have been in contact with the victim’s family members since last night.
Hodges said police have evidence that the five people they arrested stopped at a White Castle to pick up food after they fled the mall Friday night. “It appears they felt it necessary to get something to eat,” he said.
Mall of America officials said there was increased security and police presence at the mall Saturday, but did not detail whether security would increase or change going forward.
Nordstrom announced it would close on Saturday and Sunday, although employees were on call offering curbside pickup until 5 p.m. Saturday. It is unclear if the store will reopen Monday.
Gov. Tim Walz condemned the shooting Saturday.
“The violence at MOA last night is absolutely unacceptable,” Walz tweeted. “We are in touch with local officials to provide the support and resources they need.”
Hodges said Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington followed up with him and pledged help if requested. Hodges said the FBI, ATF and Hennepin County have been helping with the investigation.
The shooting sent nearby shoppers scrambling. Hodges said the first officer on the scene was on duty at a store near Nordstrom when he saw panicked shoppers running out of the department store’s entrance into the mall.
Some frightened shoppers shared video and details on social media Friday night. Several New York Giants players, including one of the team’s sportscasters, were visiting the mall ahead of their Christmas Eve game against the Minnesota Vikings during the shooting. The team said in a statement that players were escorted out of the building by mall security and Bloomington police.
Friday’s shooting marks the third time within a year that gunfire erupted in Minnesota’s premier mall, one of the largest in the country. One man was shot in the leg and another was grazed by a bullet on the mall’s third floor last New Year’s Eve. An 18-year-old later confessed to the shooting, telling police that he was trying to escape pursuers who were upset with him about an earlier incident before firing when one of them nearly chased him down.
Months later another shooting sent the mall into lockdown for two hours when a dispute between two groups of people ended with several gunshots outside a Nike store. No injuries were reported. Weeks after that, a man armed with a long gun robbed a Lids store in the mall before being tackled and arrested by authorities.
Mall security had installed metal detectors at its north entrance on a trial basis, but it was unclear if those detectors were still in place Friday. Mall policy bans guns and fireworks from the premises, but gun rights advocates have argued that permit-to-carry holders can bring firearms into the building’s common areas.
Around 40 million visitors explore the mall each year, according to its fact sheet, and about 40% are tourists. The mall contains more than 520 stores and rakes in nearly $2 billion in economic activity for Minnesota.
Hodges said authorities believe this is the second time since the mall opened in 1992 that someone has been killed there. The first was a domestic incident in 1999, he said.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.