GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. – A manhunt was underway late Thursday after two people were injured during a shooting inside a busy shopping mall in Grande Prairie, Alta.
RCMP Cpl. Ronald Bumbry confirmed that two people had been injured by a single gunshot — a male with serious but non-life-threatening injuries and a woman bystander.
Photos posted to social media suggested the woman had been hit in the leg — Bumbry characterized her injury as non-life-threatening.
Bumbry did not know how many people were being sought but said the altercation at the mall involved two groups of males. He said no arrests had yet been made.
“Police believe this was not a random act and there is no risk for public safety,” said Bumbry.
He said members of the Grande Prairie RCMP detachment along with General Investigation Section, RCMP Forensic Identification unit and the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team continue to investigate.
The shooting took place late Thursday afternoon by the east doors going into the Prairie Mall’s food court.
Witnesses described a flurry of activity.
Jeannette LaFlamme was in the north end of the mall waiting for an appointment.
“All of a sudden, there were people coming in droves on the north end of the mall essentially, not running out of the mall but getting out of the mall as fast as they could,” she told radio station CJXX/CIKT.
“We had one person come and tell the store to close up shop because two people had been shot at the food court.”
Barb Verhaegag had just gone into the mall with her son.
“We heard what sounded like, and was later confirmed by other witnesses, to be a gunshot in the food court,” said Verhaegag. “We looked around and all the stores were panicky, closing their doors.”
A woman who didn’t want her name used told the radio station she saw a group of males “acting weird” before they grabbed at a man with a bag and a shot was fired.
“I can’t believe it’s happening here,” she said. “People were screaming, kids were crying and I hit the floor.”
Verhaegag praised RCMP for their quick response, saying there were a half-dozen police vehicles on scene by the time she and her son left the mall.
However, Shameen Aghdasy, an employee at the Jersey City store, said he was dissatisfied with how things were handled.
“I found it unorganized, we had no idea what was going on,” he told radio station CFFR. “Closing the mall, you think you’d hear it over the (public address system) but we never heard anything.”
He said the situation was terrifying and he was unsure what to do.
“We noticed the store across from us was randomly closing the doors with the customers inside, she then came over running to my store and said `close your doors because there was a gunshot,’ ” he said.
Minutes seemed like hours as he and his manager waited for things to calm down. A woman he believes was with the mall finally came and told them to evacuate, so they left.
“I was scared to be honest, thinking about having to go back to work tomorrow,” he admitted. “I have to think if I even want to back there.”
(The Canadian Press, CJXX/CIKT, CFFR)