Sunday, June 20, 2021

3 hurt in shooting in Florida’s Aventura Mall: Police

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A shooting at an upscale South Florida shopping mall that erupted from a fight between two groups of people left three persons injured Saturday afternoon and sent anxious shoppers fleeing, police and local reports say.

Live aerial television news footage showed people scattering outside the Aventura Mall after reports of gunfire. Law enforcement vehicles could be seen converging outside the complex and blocking roads.

Aventura Police said two groups of people had begun fighting, sparking the shooting.

One individual in one of the groups produced a gun, and an individual in the other group also drew a gun and fired the weapon, said an Aventura police spokesman, Michael Bentolila, in briefing reporters on live television.

Police said the three people injured were being treated at hospitals and their injuries were not life-threatening.

Aventura Police later tweeted that authorities had “several suspects” in custody who were being questioned by detectives. Police had no immediate report on what touched off the incident and did not immediately release the identities of those in custody or injured.

After the shooting, all patrons and employees were escorted from the shopping complex and officials were restricting access to the mall until further notice, police said.

Aventura City Manager Ron Wasson told The Miami Herald that authorities were sweeping the area in case someone dropped a firearm.

“They just want to make sure if someone might have dumped a weapon, we don’t miss it,” he told the newspaper.

Videos shared on social media community forums show officers who appeared to be taking a man in custody outside the mall. Other footage showed shoppers running out of the stores or seeking cover.

Luke Lockart, 22, said he was in Armani Exchange, checking out, when he heard screaming and things falling over because people were running into the store and knocking over mannequins.

“They were trying to hide anywhere they could because no one knew what was going on,” said Lockart, who works in real estate.

The staff at the store eventually locked the doors and asked people to go into a back room, he said. Police and first responders were running through a nearby hallway within minutes. “They were on top of it,” Lockart said.

He followed updates on social media, saying “it was a very uneasy feeling” as he spent more than an hour in the store before police escorted everyone out.

Aventura Mall bills itself on its online site as a premier shopping destination in the Miami area and South Florida.

In May 2020, two people were wounded and taken to a hospital after an argument led to a shooting inside the same mall. Aventura police said that shooting also followed an argument in a department store in the complex.

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