Gunfire broke out inside a crowded downtown Muskogee shopping mall on Saturday, leaving a teenager dead and several injured in what witnesses described as a gunfight, police said.
Five people were taken to Muskogee Regional Medical Center but their conditions haven’t been released, police spokesman Pedro Zardeneta said. It was unclear whether the person killed, 17-year-old Jarrod Reed of Muskogee, was among several people involved in the shooting at Arrowhead Mall or a bystander, he said.
Details about the other victims were not released, hospital spokesman Chad Wetz said.
Shoppers inside the mall were told by a public-address announcement to leave quickly, and gathered outside the mall. Several said they heard four or five shots just before the announcement about 4:15 p.m.
The city’s downtown area was crowded with visitors attending the annual Azalea Festival.
Tonya Pierce said her daughter and two friends were waiting for a ride home when shots rang out. Her daughter told her that “people started screaming” and a group of men started shooting, Pierce said. “They thought they were trying to shoot someone else.”
In a tearful reunion outside the mall, Pierce alternated between hugging her daughter and holding her face in her hands.
Witnesses told police they thought it was a gunfight, Zardeneta said. He estimated that five or six people were injured.
Gunfire was reported elsewhere in the city after the mall shooting, but the reports haven’t been confirmed, he said.
A police officer who wouldn’t give his name said it was not believed the shooters were still inside the mall, but that officers were going store-to-store to make sure the mall was evacuated.
Sydnee Huber, 15, of Muskogee, a clerk at the Twisted Joe’s Pretzel Stand in the mall, sent a text message to her father about 4:15 p.m. saying she had heard shots at the mall, and that the mall had been locked down. Her parents, Brian and Carrie Huber, left a local chili cook-off that was part of the Azalea Festival activities and traveled to the downtown mall, which had been packed with festival goers.
Hope Bridges, manager of Kat Daddy’s Bar and Grill in the mall, said merchants had looked forward to Saturday’s festival drawing more business. She said she heard no shots, but heard screams that grew to a crescendo as shoppers fled the shopping center.
She called 911 and was told to evacuate her restaurant, she said. Diners in the nearly full restaurant were enjoying the $6.99 barbecued ribs when Bridges and the service staff told them to leave.
“It was a great business day for the mall. Everyone was happy, everybody was in town,” Bridges said. “It was something the mall had been looking forward to.”