Police search for 2 persons of interest in mall shooting - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Police search for 2 persons of interest in mall shooting

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Independence police released photos of two persons of interest just before 10 p.m. Saturday. One of the two men has his hands held at his waistband in the photos, but police declined to identify which man they believe fired the shots. Independence police released photos of two persons of interest just before 10 p.m. Saturday. One of the two men has his hands held at his waistband in the photos, but police declined to identify which man they believe fired the shots.
INDEPENDENCE, MO (KCTV) -

The manhunt continues for the shooter who fired a weapon inside the Independence Center Mall, injuring two teens.

The 17-year-old boy and 17-year-old girl are expected to recover from their injuries.

The shots rang out just after 4:30 p.m. Saturday, leading to chaos inside the packed mall. Shoppers described fleeing to other stores or their cars. Store employees slammed gates blocking access to stores. The mall was placed on lockdown for a time.

Independence police released photos of two persons of interest just before 10 p.m. Saturday. One of the two men has his hands held at his waistband in the photos, but police declined to identify which man they believe fired the shots.

The suburban mall is just northeast of Interstate 70 and Missouri 291, just east of Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums. The mall is on 39th Street between Arrowhead Avenue and Jackson Drive.

An argument in a mall parking lot escalated into the shooting.

Police said once the individuals in the two groups moved from the parking lot the altercation continued on the first floor near the Sears mall entrance. Witnesses said the verbal dispute escalated into a physical fight in the upper level of the mall.

"At some point in that altercation, shots were fired," said Independence Police Department Capt. John Cato.

Witnesses described hearing up to five shots being fired. One victim was struck in the leg while the second victim was struck in the foot by a bullet.

A friend of the two victims said they are dating. The 17-year-old teen was working at a store when he said his friends were shot. He said he scrambled "to get people behind the store so that they didn't get hurt in the commotion."

Independence police have a substation in the front of the mall. In addition, dozens of Independence police immediately converged on the mall. Other agencies, including the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, Missouri Highway Patrol and Lee's Summit, Kansas City and Blue Springs police departments, sent officers to assist Independence in locking down the mall and clearing the scene.

"On a Saturday night the center was pretty crowded.  I know that investigators are talking with many, many people right now – some of those I can't say are persons of interest because I don't know, but I know they are talking to several shoppers that were present and several people, trying to put the pieces to this puzzle together," said Cato.

At least three people were seen in handcuffs but later released. A number of people were taken to the Independence Police Department headquarters in downtown Independence for questioning about what they saw. Detectives were expected to work all night in an attempt to piece together what happened and locate those responsible.

Shoppers and employees described the panic to KCTV5 reporters and in posts on KCTV5's Facebook page. If you have pictures or videos from the mall Saturday afternoon, please email them to KCTV5 at newsdesk@kctv5.com or post them on KCTV5's Facebook page here.

One person said officers with drawn weapons sprinted through the mall toward the scene outside the Sears store.

"We were just walking like normal and we heard these five gunshots and we didn't know what to do and everybody was running and grabbing us and everybody was freaking out," said Annabelle Anderson.

She and her friend, Lauren Potts, fled from the Sears store, which is in the western wing of the mall, to the Macy's store, which is in the eastern wing of the mall.

"I was scared that we were going to die and hoping that everybody's OK and hoping that God was with everyone," said Potts.

The two girls huddled in a Macy's dressing room. Macy's and other stores brought down their gates and locked doors after the shots rang out, witnesses said. Shoppers and employees gathered in store rooms until they received the all clear.

Penni Walker described her terror on KCTV5's Facebook page.

"It was scary. We all ran to the dressing rooms then after the gates came down we all went to the storage part of the store. Stayed there for an hour. Never thought it would happen in that mall," she wrote.

Another woman wrote that it was "loud and scary" for her and her daughter.

Stacy Ethridge said she saw the shooter begin firing.

"We saw the first person get hit and we just started running! We have a SUV so we started throwing moms with kids in the truck and taking them to their cars. Scariest thing I've ever seen."

Several shoppers praised the mall security and store employees throughout the mall for their quick actions to protect shoppers and employees.

"I was there and was heading down the escalator to the rest rooms, it sounded like two shots then, everyone just looked around and heard about three more," Starla Nichole wrote. "Everyone just ran and scattered. I ran to the back stock room with many others. Parents holding their kids crying and some kids didn't even know where their parents are. I'm just glad my family got out safe. Real eye opening and the scariest thing I have ever been a part of."

Others lamented that the mall saw such violence.

"It's a very sad day when we can't go to the mall and be safe," Tammy Moore Eaton wrote on KCTV's Facebook page.

By 10 p.m. Saturday, the mall's vast parking lots were deserted. The mall reopened Sunday at noon as scheduled.

If anyone has seen or knows the whereabouts of the men seen in the photos, they are asked to call the Independence Police Department Investigations Unit at (816) 325-7330 or the TIPS Hotline at (816) 474-TIPS.

Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.)  All rights reserved.

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