Five people were taken to the hospital after a shooting at Aventura Mall prompted a lockdown at the busy shopping center. Police said they have taken several people into custody, but the gunman remains at large.
Aventura Police and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue units responded to the scene just after 3:30 p.m., Saturday.
In a tweet, police said, “We have several suspects involved in custody and being questioned by detectives.”
However, as of late Saturday night, police were still searching for the gunman. They do not believe the subject is on the property anymore.
Aventura Police Maj. Michael Bentolila said it all started with an argument between two groups of people outside the Hugo Boss store, near Nordstrom.
“Two groups of individuals, as far as we can tell, got into a verbal altercation that then resulted in a physical altercation,” he said. “One individual displayed a weapon. From the other group, another individual pulled a weapon and actually used it.”
7News cameras captured a heavy police presence, including Miami-Dade Police units and a police helicopter. Several parts of the mall were cordoned off with crime scene tape.
Video posted to social media by Only in Dade showed officers sweeping the area with their guns drawn.
Cellphone video showed a person who appeared to be in handcuffs being walked out of the mall by officers.
According to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, five people were transported to area hospitals. Officials said one of the patients was a trauma alert.
Police said three of the victims were injured during the shooting. Their injuries are not life-threatening.
Two additional victims suffered injuries while people were attempting to exit the mall.
Witnesses said they heard as many as eight gunshots ring out. Others said they heard screams.
“We were in line waiting, and out of nowhere, we heard a stampede of people, like, just running,” said a shopper who identified herself as Amy. “I went to a corner, and the employees called us to the back. We were there for a good 30 minutes, and then they moved us to another area, like, a safer area, and now we came out.”
In cellphone video posted to Twitter, shoppers were seen standing in a store. In the caption, the user, @____Shakia, wrote, “Literally locked in a store at Aventura Mall because there is an active shooter.”
Some shoppers said they were initially confused as to what had taken place and were eventually told to take shelter.
“I was in JCPenney, and we heard – it sounded like fireworks, and I saw the people running, running,” said shopper Marvel Milne, “and I started running, too, but [I didn’t know] what was going on. They just kept saying, ‘There’s a shooter, there’s a shooter!’ And then I just hid by the jewelry station at JCPenney. I just stayed there. I didn’t move, and people kept running.”
In another video posted to Twitter, shoppers are seen running into an outdoor parking lot.
Another video showed dozens of shoppers going down a stairwell.
Josephina Golubov said Saturday was her first day at her new job in the mall.
“Twenty minutes after my shift started, you hear gunfire and everybody running to the back,” she said.
An employee at the Apple Store said she was forced to wait inside the store for nearly two hours.
Police said the gunman was last seen wearing a black Adidas tracksuit with white stripes and black shoes.
“Our detectives are going through video, interviews and putting all the pieces together,” said Bentolila.
“I’m just thankful to be alive and that we’re OK, because it was a very scary experience,” said Amy.
Just before 8 p.m., police said the mall will remain closed for the night. It is scheduled to reopen at noon on Sunday.
All westbound lanes of the William Lehman Causeway were temporarily shut down. They have since reopened.
If you have any information on this shooting or the gunman’s whereabouts, call Aventura Police or Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a reward of up to $5,000.