Florida Mall Shooting Likely Gang Violence, Say Police

Gunfire at Boynton Beach Mall leaves one dead, chaos in mall on Christmas Eve

"One pulled out a gun and just started shooting," said 16-year-old Tonya Sweeney whose mother works at Yankee Candle at the mall. "He started running and people said he ended up at Dillard's."

Others said they were inconvenienced.

"I'm [out of luck]," said Jimmy Adeola, 49, of Lake Worth. "I bought for everyone except my wife. What is this world coming to when you can't even be safe at the mall?"

Near Dillard's entrance, police tried to get curious people away from the building, while a lone officer crouched motionless behind an SUV -- his gun drawn and pointed at one of the store's entrances. Others hid behind parked parks, school buses and a SWAT van. A Sheriff's Office helicopter buzzed overhead.

Susan Gerhard and her family were among the shoppers led out of Dillard's with their hands up. She said she was shopping with her daughter and granddaughter at Dillard's when they heard people shouting and running.

"We saw someone that looked like a security guard draw a gun and we just ran into a room," she said. "We knew there was something going on."

Gerhard and her family found a closet near the north entrance of the department store, where employees were having a Christmas lunch. The eight barricaded themselves in the room until the SWAT team swarmed the store.

"It was terrifying," Gerhard's daughter, Jennifer Scott, said.

Scott said they heard people shouting, stands being knocked over and doors being slammed.

When the SWAT team got to their room, they ordered them to walk outside slowly with their hands up.

"It scared the poor kid out of her mind," Gerhard said of her 14-year-old granddaughter.

Silvana Soleri, who said she worked at a store, but wouldn't say which one, said she felt an incident such as the shooting was bound to happen.

"You just got the feeling," she said. "There's a lot of young men standing around and loitering. Maybe now because of the incident we'll get more policing."

By 5 p.m. most of the parking lot was empty, but patrol cars still guarded each of the mall's entrances.

Staff Researcher Jeremy Milarsky contributed to this report.

Copyright (c) 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.