Local News

Shoppers, chefs, salespeople: Everybody running

Posted August 13, 2016 9:56 p.m. EDT
Updated August 14, 2016 12:48 a.m. EDT

— For most of the hundreds of people inside Raleigh's Crabtree Valley Mall on Saturday, the first sign that something was amiss came in the form of a crowd, running hurriedly for the exits or seeking shelter inside a store's back room.

When Shanita Dixon, manager of the Lady Foot Locker, saw people running, she wondered, "Are we next? Are we the next hash tag?"

She huddled in her store with her employees, wondering what was going on until they, too, joined the rush.

"Me and my coworker, we heard the sound, and he pulled me down, and we just ran out," said Daniel Lewis.

Brad Johnson was with his two kids inside Banana Republic. They had stopped at Crabtree Valley to do a little shopping on their way home to Virginia from the beach.

The Johnsons didn't hear a pop or a boom, although others reported hearing gunshots. They just saw panicked faces and felt the urgency.

"People were running like their lives depended on it, very fast," Johnson said. "It was like it was the Titanic. It was like it was the end."

That rush led to 8 people being injured, said Raleigh Chief of Police Cassandra Deck-Brown.

Sarah Maynard was in Stride Rite with her son. Her husband and daughter were in the food court.

"I grabbed my son and everybody said, 'Run run run!' We went into the back of the store into the bathroom, about 20 of us, and shut door and just prayed," she said.

Maynard was trapped for about 20 minutes, unable to text or call 911 and unsure if her husband or daughter were alive. Like many others, her family was shaken but fine.

When Michael Baitsas, a chef at the Cheesecake Factory, looked outside to assess the situation, he was surprised by the police presence.

"I walked out on our patio, and I stuck my head around the corner, and one of the SWAT members actually put his rifle in my face and said, 'Get out here,'" Baitsas said.

Paulette Hickson was in the Disney store with her 2-year-old granddaughter. "When we saw everybody running, then of course, I just picked up my granddaughter and forgot my purse," she said.

Her purse, cell phone and keys to her truck were trapped inside the mall while police searched for the source of the sound described by some as gunfire. As afternoon faded into evening, they found no shooter, no shell casings and no one who had been hit by a bullet.

Hickson and others will have to wait until at least Sunday to recover belongings left behind in haste. In a statement, the mall referred people to its Facebook page and website for information on how to claim lost property. Shoppers can also call the mall office after noon on Sunday at 919-787-2506.

It's a wait Hickson greeted with relief after a long, tense day.