Wary shoppers return to Christiana Mall as police provide more details on Saturday’s mass shooting

Police said three males began attacking one victim, and when his two friends fought back, one suspect fired several bullets and struck three people.

A woman standing outside in front of a mall.

Kayla Wilson said mall security should be tighter in light of Saturday night's mass shooting, which occurred behind the doors behind her. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Kayla Wilson was watching The Super Mario Bros. Movie with friends at the Christiana Mall early Saturday evening when the screen went blank.

“A manager came into the theater and told us, ‘Hey, just to let you know, there is an incident going over at the mall.’”

When an audience member demanded more information, the manager said, “Well, there has been a shooting.”

Wilson said she decided to venture outside a few minutes later, and saw flashing red lights everywhere and what seemed like “a thousand cops.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

It was still daylight when police responded to the bloody, chaotic scene in the parking lot across from the Cinemark Christiana. Officers said three people were shot around 6:45 p.m., in the small vestibule at the mall’s main entrance — which is flanked by a Cheesecake Factory restaurant and Barnes & Noble bookstore. Five other people were injured.

As of Monday afternoon, no arrests had been made, but state police provided an update on the investigation and released a photo and brief video of three suspects walking together just after entering the mall.

Police said the suspects, all males, confronted an 18-year-old male as he left the food court. They began to beat him, and two of the victim’s friends began fighting with the suspects, police said.

While they fought, one suspect pulled a handgun from his waistband and fired several times, police said.

The 18-year-old they had attacked and his 16-year-old friend were both struck by three bullets, located in the torso and lower extremities. Both remain hospitalized in stable condition, police said.

Another 18-year-old, who was not involved in the fight, was standing on the sidewalk outside the vestibule when he was struck by one bullet. He was taken to a hospital for non-life threatening injuries, according to police.

‘It’s always shocking but it’s not surprising’

The mall was closed Sunday for Easter. But Monday morning when it opened at 10 a.m., a steady trickle of shoppers and employees walked through that same carpeted vestibule, which showed no signs of the violence that occurred less than 40 hours earlier.

Wilson, who was accompanied Monday by her brother and a friend, was one of those shoppers.

“We figured that everything was going to be resolved over the weekend,’’ she said. “I mean, they had [more than] 24 hours to take care of everything, and so we just came over to get some tea and see if it was okay to come by.”

Wilson’s comments echoed many others, who said while she is concerned about security at the mall, especially on crowded weekend evenings, this particular shooting wasn’t by a gunman firing at random people.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“It was a targeted shooting,’’ she said.

Wilson said it seemed to her that mall security isn’t very vigilant in enforcing a policy — posted at the entrance — that requires all minors to be supervised by a parent or adult at least 21 years old after 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

“It isn’t as cracked down as I expected it to be,’’ Wilson said of the policy. “It probably will be, moving forward, for sure.”

A bulletin board describing parental guidance requirements.
Some shoppers wonder how well Christiana Mall enforces its weekend policy requiring minors to have adult chaperones. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Mall officials did not respond to a request from WHYY News on the policy and whether any changes might be in store following the shooting.

But mall spokeswoman Lindsay Kahn released a statement that said firearms are strictly prohibited and they are “troubled by Saturday’s isolated incident.”

Kahn’s statement said mall officials “remain steadfast in our commitment to ensuring the safety and comfort of our guests, tenants, and employees, which has been and remains our highest priority.  When we reopened this morning, there was an increased police presence at the shopping center.”

Man standing in front of a store in a mall.
Mark Thompson runs a jewelry repair shop and says mass shootings can happen ‘anywhere. You can be at church.’ (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Mark Thompson, a merchant at the mall, wondered what could have been done to prevent the “horrible” violence. He said some of his employees were forced to hide in back rooms of stores while police tried to determine if the shooter or shooters were inside the mall.

“I don’t really know how you prevent something like that, outside of having metal detectors outside the door or something like that,” said Thompson, who runs Fast-Fix Jewelry and Watch Repairs.

Thompson said that should police make arrests, Attorney General Kathy Jennings’ office “needs to be hard on the criminals. There needs to be consequences.”

Thompson said the mall has a “significant amount of security and a pretty good state police presence as well” but bemoaned the reality that places once considered safe can longer be thought of that way.

“You can be anywhere. You can be at church,’’ he said. “It’s always shocking, but it’s not surprising when you think about it.”

While Thompson was reflecting on Delaware’s first mall shooting, police in Louisville, Kentucky, were investigating the carnage at a downtown bank where five people were killed and nine injured in America’s 146th mass shooting on the year’s 99th day.

But at Delaware’s sprawling and popular mall, located off Interstate 95 near Newark, business was normal for a Monday morning, though everybody WHYY News spoke to was aware of what had transpired.

Elisha Beckham, a postal worker from Newark, spoke about the shooting after buying a phone charger at the Apple store.

“That’s why I’m here early, because I wanted to beat the crowd,’’ she said. “It does make you nervous to come here, because we don’t know why the people were shot.”

Beckham likes shopping at the mall but only early in the morning or just before closing.

“At night there’s less kids, adults, everything,’’ she said. “So that’s the best time for me anyway.”

Newark resident Tanner Viering, who delivers pizzas, said he’s disgusted by what happened in the mall he likes to frequent but now admits being hesitant to do so.

“This shouldn’t be happening,’’ Viering said. “There’s been plenty of evidence on why the Second Amendment [right to bear arms’] should be reworked. It just sucks.”

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal