KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A customer opened fire in a crowded shopping mall Wednesday afternoon, killing a clothing store employee before he was shot and wounded by police officers, authorities said. Witnesses said the gunfire sent people "stampeding" for cover.
The employee was shot multiple times around 4:20 p.m. EDT after a confrontation with the customer and died at Knoxville Center Mall, police spokesman Darrell DeBusk said. No other injuries were reported.
Two uniformed Knoxville Police Department officers confronted the suspect and exchanged gunfire with him as he exited Reno Menswear, DeBusk said.
The suspect was taken to University of Tennessee Medical Center, where a nursing supervisor said she didn't have a report on his condition. Police didn't release the names of the customer or the suspect.
Witness Daniel Wiles said he saw a man about a hundred feet away with a handgun, heard nine shots and saw people begin fleeing for cover.
"I heard a single shot. Then immediately after that I heard eight additional shots. People started stampeding," said Wiles, who was at the mall to pay a cell phone bill.
Kay Jewelers assistant manager Cayla Corum said that before she heard gun shots a worker warned her to shut the gates to the store because of reports of someone carrying a gun in the mall.
"At first, it sounded like firecrackers going off," said Corum, 21. "Then everyone started running. ... I've never experienced anything like it in my life."
Corum said she heard two shots, a pause, and then "at least 15" shots.
The mall closed for the night about 1½ hours after the shooting. Witnesses said several of the mall's stores closed their gates as a precaution when shots were heard.
Knoxville Center Mall is owned by Simon Property Group of Indianapolis. A spokesman did not immediately return a phone message for comment.