A 15-year-old Milwaukee teenager was arrested and accused in connection with the mass shooting that wounded multiple people inside Mayfair Mall, a popular shopping center in the suburban Milwaukee County community of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, police said in a news conference.
“The Wauwatosa Police Department is pleased to announce the arrest of a 15 year old Hispanic male in connection with the shooting at Mayfair Mall,” said Police Chief Barry Weber in the Sunday news conference. That description varied from the one initially released of a white male in his 20s and 30s, which was erroneous.
Police said they don’t think the mass shooting was a random act; they say it stemmed from an “altercation” they didn’t detail.
“Photos of our suspect were not released to the media in fear of compromising the investigation,” said Weber, who added that the mass shooting was “not a random one. It was an altercation between two groups.” Several members of those groups were injured. Police said they were still investigating the groups’ “connections.” Several arrests have been made, they said.
Police said they were still investigating the details of what prompted the altercation. They said they did not know if the people in the altercation were gang members. The chief said the process of securing the mall involved 1.2 million square feet of space that took six hours and seven tactical teams to complete.
Police didn’t believe “immediate danger to the public existed” because authorities didn’t think the mass shooting was random, said Weber, claiming that Mayfair Mall remains a safe place to go shopping. He encouraged people to show their support to Mayfair.
“Four innocent bystanders” received non life-threatening wounds, said police. Eight people were shot in all, a teenager and seven adults. Police developed leads and figured out the suspect was younger than previously described; the police chief said video helped police find the suspect, but they didn’t want to release a photo because he is a juvenile. The suspect’s name was not released due to his age.
“There was some sort of altercation, and that’s when the bullets started flying,” said Weber.
That’s a message police also gave earlier on their social media accounts. “Preliminary investigation has led us to believe that this shooting was not a random act, and was the result of an altercation. We will continue to work diligently to interview the many witnesses, as well as the victims who were injured, to identify and apprehend the suspect,” Wauwatosa police wrote earlier on Twitter.
Witness accounts indicate the teen gunman was there with a purpose. “A guy walked in Macy’s and apparently just started open firing on people. And as he walked out into the mall area, he started shooting, people just starting running,” a witness told WTMJ-TV.
The mall has been the flashpoint of tensions in the community. The names of the victims have not been released, but the family of one man shot told Fox 6 Milwaukee that he was a Pakistani immigrant. The day after the shooting, a pro Trump rally was held across the street from the mall, with many participants heavily armed. The Proud Boys were in attendance, they said to provide security, and Black Lives Matter protesters showed up too. See photos and videos of that rally here.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Suspect Was ‘Scooped’ Up in a Traffic Stop, the Police Chief Says
Weber, the Wauwatosa police chief, said in a previous news release that the suspect left the scene after the mass shooting. The conditions of the victims were not clear, but the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office tweeted that it had not been called to the scene, and the chief said all will recover.
The suspected firearm used in the incident was also recovered at the scene of the arrest, he said.
Weber said the suspect was arrested in a traffic stop. Police “pulled over a car and scooped him up there,” Weber said. He said the weapon was recovered. He said he was not aware of any of the victims having weapons.
“Preliminary statements from witnesses indicate that the shooter is a white male in his 20s or 30s,” Weber wrote in the previous news release. “Investigators are working on determining the identity of the suspect. Any information reporting the shooter’s identity at this time is false.”
Later in the evening of November 20, Wauwatosa police wrote, “Law enforcement personnel continue to safely clear Mayfair Mall, and are assisting those inside with safe exit. We ask the community to remain patient as we secure the scene and gather info related to the suspect. Anyone with info should contact the Wauwatosa PD at (414) 471-8430.”
For months, the mall has been the subject of People’s Revolution/Black Lives Matter protests over a fatal shooting by a Wauwatosa police officer of an armed teem in the Mayfair Mall parking lot; the teen, Alvin Cole, 17, had brought the gun into the mall and fled police, discharging it before the officer shot and killed him. The officer was involved in three on-duty fatal shootings, all ruled justified, and he entered a severance agreement to resign the same week as the mass shooting. A protester, Ronald Bell, was accused of discharging a gun at the officer in a chaotic scene at the officer’s girlfriend’s private property. The mass shooting occurred on the day accused Kenosha, Wisconsin, mass shooter Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, was released from jail on $2 million bail. Rittenhouse is claiming self defense in the shootings of three people during Kenosha riots/protests, which occurred about an hour from Wauwatosa.
Again, the motive in the Mayfair Mall mass shooting is not clear, other than it involved an altercation, and there’s no evidence right that it bears any nexus to those controversies, which have dominated the conversation in Wauwatosa since the shooting death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The mall, which boasts 197 stores as well as chain restaurants, is sandwiched between the City of Milwaukee and the edge of Waukesha County. “The Mayfair Mall property has been cleared and is secure. Mayfair Mall management has indicated that the mall will be closed tomorrow, Saturday, November 21. Law enforcement personnel will remain at the mall into the night processing the scene,” Wauwatosa police wrote on Twitter.
2. The Victims Were Clustered Around the Macy’s Store; One Man Was Working at a Kiosk
The chief revealed that the victims were found clustered “near the northwest entrance to Macy’s,” which is a major anchor store at the mall.
Waseem Dilshad told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his uncle was one of the victims; he was shot in the leg while working at a kiosk near the Macy’s store.
“My uncle just moved here a few years ago from Pakistan,” said Shavez Hassan to Fox 6 Milwaukee. “He’s always been a kind and caring person every person, every customer he has everyone loves and respects him. That’s why when I learned he got shot. I was not expecting it to be him.”
Weber said that the police began receiving calls around 2:50 p.m. on November 20. The 911 callers were “reporting a shooting incident at Mayfair Mall near the northwest entrance to Macy’s,” wrote Weber.
The victims were taken to the hospital; local media broadcasts showed stretchers being taken into the mall.
The chief said the extent of the victims’ injuries is not clear. He said the mall was still an active crime scene and was closed to the public.
“We are saddened about the incident tonight at Mayfair Mall, as the safety of Macy’s customers and employees is our top priority. We are working closely with the Wauwatosa Police Department and local officials on this investigation and defer all comments about the case to local authorities per policy,” Macy’s said in a statement obtained by WTMJ-TV.
3. Witnesses Described How People Ran for Safety & Hid Inside the Mall; Police Say the Suspect is a Milwaukee Resident
— Cassidy Williams (@CassidyWtv) November 20, 2020
Police obtained search warrants based on “investigative leads,” Weber said in the Sunday afternoon press conference. The suspect is a Milwaukee resident. The arrest was made on November 21.
One witness told WISN-12 that the first gunshot was loud. Then they started “coming one after the other and we dropped to the ground and then ran.”
A woman wrote, “idk what the f*ck is happening but i’m sitting in p.f. chang’s and people are RUNNING out of mayfair mall. no one is telling us what’s going on.” That’s a restaurant that’s attached to the mall.
Another witness gave a gripping description of her experience. “I heard one gunshot but didn’t realize what it was, It sounds like someone knocked over a display or something,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Then shortly thereafter there was a bunch more shots. It was clear then. I dropped to my knees and hid behind a display. Lots of people started running for the back of the store, but I was worried about them shooting into the store so I stayed hidden. Once I heard noise in the mail hallway I snuck myself to the back of the store, used the emergency exit and ran through the mall back hallways til I was outside.” Police were already responding by the time she made it out.
4. The FBI Responded to the Scene & the Governor Expressed Gratitude for First Responders
— NBC Bay Area (@nbcbayarea) November 20, 2020
Federal law enforcement rushed to the scene.
“#FBIMilwaukee currently responding to support local law enforcement tactical response to Mayfair Mall shooting incident,” the FBI tweeted.
“Our hearts go out to those who were injured in the shooting at Mayfair Mall today. Kathy and I are thinking of them and their families and wish them a full and speedy recovery,” wrote Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Twitter.
“We are also thinking about all the customers and workers affected by this act of violence and are grateful for the first responders who helped get people to safety. As we learn more, we offer our support for the entire Wauwatosa community as they grapple with this tragedy.”
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin tweeted, “We are saddened about the incident tonight at Mayfair Mall, as the safety of Macy’s customers and employees is our top priority. We are working closely with the Wauwatosa Police Department and local officials on this investigation and defer all comments about the case to local authorities per policy.”
5. The Suspect Exited the Mall as People Were Running Out & Officers Were Giving First Aid Within 30 Seconds of the Call, Says the Chief
Weber said that officers were at the scene “within 30 seconds of receiving the” initial call. He said the officers’ first priority is to provide first aid and secure the scene. The shooter exited mall as other patrons were running out, said the chief.
The shooter was “no longer at the scene” when first responders got there, according to the police chief.
Police said the officers had no suspect description when they first arrived at the mall.
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