5 dead at strip mall shooting

Feb. 2, 2008
Gunman at large after robbery, say police

TINLEY PARK, Ill. -- A gunman fatally shot five women in a robbery at a store in a suburban Chicago strip mall and fled Saturday, prompting police to sweep through neighboring shops as terrified customers watched.

The victims, including at least one employee, were killed at a Lane Bryant clothing store at the Brookside Marketplace, police Sgt. T.J. Grady said.

Officers found the victims at the back of the store after getting a 911 call around 10:45 a.m., Grady said.

Grady said robbery was believed to be the motive. Police searched for the gunman using dogs and a helicopter equipped with infrared sensors but concluded he left the stores off Interstate 80 southwest of downtown Chicago.

In a Target store across the parking lot from Lane Bryant, terrified customers were herded to the front as police with pistols and rifles drawn went up and down the aisles and into storerooms searching for the gunman.

"I was so scared I couldn't think," said Selena Kujawa, who had just entered the store with her 5-year-old son when it was locked down. After about an hour, customers were told to leave.

"They told us to get in our cars and get out of here," Kujawa said.

Meanwhile, the Chicago police department warned its officers to pay attention to strip malls and other Lane Bryant stores, police spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

Grady said police are downloading video from cameras mounted at nearby stores.

The Lane Bryant was open at the time of the shootings. Grady declined to say whether the victims were customers or employees. He gave no ages and said authorities are still trying to reach the victims' families.

Police were allowing some shoppers into parts of the strip mall later Saturday, but had cordoned off the store.

Tracy Caccavella was shopping at a Pet Smart store late Saturday morning across the parking lot from the Lane Bryant when she saw police enter the pet supply store.

"Six police entered the store with their hands on their gun holsters," Caccavella said.

The small red and brown brick Lane Bryant is part of a cluster of four or five stores isolated on one side of a large blacktop parking lot, with big box stores including Target and a Best Buy several hundred yards away.

Two large county vans backed up to the front of the building Saturday afternoon and a white canopy was placed over the front of the building.

Messages left at Lane Bryant Brand headquarters were not immediately returned.

Lane Bryant is part of plus-size women's apparel retailer Charming Shoppes Inc., based in Bensalem, Pa., which also owns the Fashion Bug and Catherines brands.

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