A man holed up in a Chandler restaurant during an armed standoff has surrendered and the nearby mall has reopened, hours after it was locked down in the wake of an officer-involved shooting.
Police evacuated Chandler Fashion Center on Wednesday after officers with a U.S. Marshal's fugitive task force exchanged gunfire with a man in a mall parking lot around noon. The man fled into the mall's Sears store, where officers lost him.
Minutes later, authorities surrounded the Baja Fresh fast-food restaurant in a strip center north of the mall in response to reports of shots being fired and a hostage situation. The suspect fired several shots upon entering, likely into the air. Nobody was injured.
The man the task force engaged at the mall was initially believed to be wanted fugitive Daniel Perez, according to DPS spokesman Robert Bailey, but Perez was not the man arrested at Baja Fresh. That man was identified Wednesday evening as Adam Hernandez, 27.
Police don’t know whether Perez was involved with any of the day’s events, Chandler police Sgt. Favazzo said. Perez was being held on two counts of aggravated assault against DPS officers after a Dec. 10 shooting incident in Casa Grande. However, on Dec. 16 he was mistakenly released from custody by a Pinal County Justice of the Peace court after posting $320 bond on an outstanding misdemeanor charge from 2009.
U.S. Marshals do not believe the robbery at Baja Fresh was connected to Perez, but they believe the suspect may be. The task force had been investigating recent East Valley robberies and followed a man they believed to be Perez from an East Valley residence in a blue Kia SUV to the mall.
"We believe that the vehicle and robberies may have been connected to Daniel Perez," said Thomas Henman, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshal's Service. Authorities were fingerprinting and searching a blue Kia SUV in the parking lot they believe belong to the suspect.
At least two people remained in the business while negotiators were in contact with the man during the standoff, and just before 3 p.m. Hernandez came outside, took his shirt off and laid on the ground as he was surrounded by police.
Police evacuated hundreds of midday shoppers from the mall. Traffic was snarled along the Loop 101 exit ramp at Chandler Boulevard and police shut down the road leading into the mall.
Shoppers who had been stuck in the mall were eventually led out through the second level of Sears, where Chandler detectives were waiting to briefly speak with them to see if they had any useful information.
Police still needed to search the mall to determine if any suspects remained, Favazzo said.
Despite gunshots being fired both at the mall and at Baja Fresh across the street, no one was injured.
December Davis, 22, a waitress at the Kona Grill inside the mall, said she and others inside her restaurant were told to drop everything and exit the shopping center. People left without their purses, cell phones and other belongings.
Michael Beyne, a worker for Auntie Anne's Pretzels in the mall, said it was a very chaotic scene after U.S. Marshals and SWAT team members arrived at the mall, which he said was crowded. "They were running after him with guns drawn yelling and hollering and screaming at everyone, 'Get out! Get out of the mall,' as people were running.
"You don't expect that at Chandler Fashion mall. It was chaotic."
Workers then exited the mall outside the employee hallway as everyone got out, Beyne said.
He said he heard "three or four" shots inside the mall.
The law-enforcement response consisted of various agencies, including DPS, Pinal County Sheriff's Office, Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and the Chandler, Tempe and Mesa police units as well as the U.S. Marshal's Service and local fire departments.
East Valley Tribune writers Dan Zeiger, Garin Groff and Mike Sakal contributed to this report.