A DeKalb County police officer shot and injured a suspected robber on Christmas Eve as hundreds of last-minute shoppers were trying to finish up at the Gallery at South DeKalb.
The suspect, who was later arrested at a house a few miles away, was shot multiple times, suffering non-life threatening injuries, DeKalb County police spokeswoman Mekka Parish said.
The suspect was not identified by police.
No shots were fired inside the mall, formerly known as the South DeKalb Mall, and no one except the suspect was injured, Parish said.
The incident started around 12:15 p.m. when a shopper told a uniformed off-duty police officer working a security detail that someone had attempted to rob them.
The mall is located south of I-20 on Candler Road in unincorporated DeKalb.
The officer confronted the suspect in the parking lot of the mall and chased him a short way on foot, DeKalb police officials said. The officer opened fire when he saw the man had a gun, Parish said.
Police would not say if the suspect fired his weapon or how many shots were fired but said he was able to climb into an SUV and drive away.
At about 2 p.m. he was found at a house on Sugar Creek Falls Avenue, which is about three miles from the mall. Parrish said the man was taken to a local hospital.
The SUV was later recovered at Bouldercrest near I-285. A handgun was inside the vehicle.
Several witnesses described the incident as a shootout. "He pushed a lady out of a car, he shot at police, the police shot back," said Daquisha Barber of Atlanta. "I think it was extremely dumb for officers to fire back. I was just pulling in."
No other injuries have been reported in the incident.
Police are continuing to investigate, and the mall was still open for business, although an area of the parking lot was roped off as a crime scene.
"I wanted to get in and get out. I have wrapping still to do," said Henrietta George of Atlanta, who was still waiting for her car three hours later because it was inside the roped-off area.
She still didn't know if her car was one of the several damaged in the shooting. "This isn't how I planned to spend my Christmas Eve."
Dorothy Moore's 6-month-old and 22-month-old grandchildren were sitting on Santa Claus' lap while officers were outside photographing about 15 shellcasings.
"I'm glad we didn't come when it happened. We just wanted to get their pictures with Santa," she said. "You ain't safe nowhere."
The unidentified officer has been placed on administrative leave while a joint task force of investigators from DeKalb police, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the district attorney's office reviews his actions.