SUV drives into suburban Chicago mall; no serious injuries reported, police say – msnNOW
Crews respond to reports of a man driving a car through the Woodfield Mall on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in Schaumberg, Ill. A vehicle drove into the mall on Friday through one of the Sears’ entrances.
© John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/TNS
CHICAGO — Police say a man is in custody after driving a vehicle into Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg on Friday afternoon, smashing displays and sending customers and store employees scrambling, many who feared they were under a mass attack.
The 22-year-old man was detained by mall patrons before police arrived, but authorities did not disclose a motive for the incident. No charges have been filed and the man was treated on the scene and declined to be taken to a hospital, authorities said.
Schaumburg police Chief Bill Wolf addressed reporters at the police station Friday night, many of whom pressed him for the reason behind the man’s actions.
Wolf said they have not ruled out that the 22-year-old, whose last known address was in Palatine, had a medical condition.
“That is one of the possibilities that we are investigating, that there was some type of medical issue involved here,” Wolf said. Additionally, Wolf said police found evidence the man was inside the mall before getting behind the wheel of the SUV.
“There is no indication that this was a terrorist attack; there is no indication this was something pre-planned and no indication that the mall itself was a target or thought to be a target ahead of time,” Wolf said.
The mall has been inspected, and there is no structural damage, said Wolf, who added that the shopping center was scheduled to reopen Saturday morning.
The black SUV smashed the doors of the mall near the Sears and Rainforest Cafe area of the mall about 2:25 p.m., Schaumburg officials said. From videos posted to social media and witnesses’ descriptions, the SUV was seen careering through the mall’s common areas before coming to rest against a pillar, as people screamed and ran out of the way.
Three people were taken to hospitals for “non-life-threatening medical issues,” but did not stem from the SUV hitting them, police said in a statement. Four others were treated on the scene.
The incident frightened patrons of the mall, some of whom later described not knowing if it was a mass shooting or other type of attack, and raced out of the mall at the urging of employees.
Jackie Sanko, of Schaumburg, was waiting in line at Garrett’s Popcorn when she said she heard screaming, followed by a crash and the sound of metal screeching. She was shocked to see a black SUV zigzagging inside the mall.
“I’ve got to get out of here as fast as I can,” she said she thought, running between the poles of the popcorn stand to duck inside a nearby store.
She took cover in La Senza, where employees rushed her and customers to a stockroom in the back, offering everyone bottled water. She estimated that they were on lockdown inside Woodfield for about an hour and 40 minutes, but said she felt more secure once she was in the back area of the store.
In a video shared on Twitter, someone shouted, “This is not happening right now,” as the SUV drove through the mall near a Forever 21 store, smashing a display in the middle of the mall as people run after the SUV. The SUV then appeared to smash into a store.
“Oh my God,” the person said.
Overhead video and photos from the scene showed an entrance to the mall smashed, glass lying on the ground, leaving a hole large enough for a car to have traveled through.
In another video showing smashed windows at a mall entrance, one person says “Oh my goodness,” and another says the driver “went all the way through … through the mall.”
Bob Thomas, a Chicago Tribune executive, said he was walking through the Macy’s store on his way to the Apple store to get his phone fixed, and as he headed toward the main mall, the fire alarm went off.
“The loudspeaker kept saying there’s been an incident in the building. They said, ‘Please leave as soon as possible,’” Thomas said. “There was no security staff telling people to do anything.”
He thought it was a false alarm and kept walking. But then he said he heard someone say they were evacuating the mall.
“It was kind of chaotic,” Thomas said. “A guy in the Apple store said, ‘They’re reporting a car driving through the first floor.’”
He headed back to Macy’s.
“I got to the center of the mall, I saw this car. It’s a black SUV crashed against a pillar in front of Clarks shoe store. The front tire was flat. Two firemen were walking around it,” he said. Thomas took a photograph, and “all of a sudden the tact team came in with assault rifles and yelling, ‘Get out, get out, get out of the mall!’”
Business owner Lateef Farooqui, 43, lives in Guadalajara, Mexico, and runs a virtual office company. He was in town visiting his two kids who attend Chicago’s DePaul University. Farooqui said he’d just finished lunch and sat down at a table on the second floor rest area just outside Sears to do some work on his laptop.
Suddenly, “waves” of panicked shoppers began running past him.
“It was like dominoes coming at you — everybody just stood up and began running toward me,” Farooqui said.
“Somebody said, ‘gun’ … someone else said, ‘shooter’ … someone else said, ‘bomb’” Farooqui said.
After jumping up and following them, he “spun around,” and not hearing anything that sounded like gunfire, worked his way back toward Sears. Peering over a railing, Farooqui heard a loud “bang,” and realized there was a car inside the mall, slamming into stores. He took off after it and began shooting “shaky” video because he was so nervous and posting to Facebook Live.
He realized the SUV had slammed so hard into Forever 21 its bumper fell off before it careened toward Hollister Co., shattering the glass windows before taking off toward Macy’s and ending up crashing into a steel pole. He saw the suspect, who appeared to be in his 20s, wearing a red shirt, after a large crowd gathered around him and police led him outside in handcuffs.
“He seemed calm, he wasn’t yelling anything,” Farooqui said. “I was about 10 feet away from him. Everyone was staring at him, but he had his head down.”
“He didn’t seem like someone who was out of control. He was very chill. … Everybody’s looking at him and he just walked with the police, about three on each side,” Farooqui said. “It was nuts.”
There was a second scare, Farooqui said, about five minutes after the man was captured when security officers ran through the mall saying “Get out!” to everybody. Then stores were placed on lockdown, including Forever 21.
“They looked the most shaken up,” Farooqui said of the Forever 21 staffers, who he saw stumble out of the store still wearing their badges. “They had tears, some were running out to meet their family.”
Abram Taylor was helping a customer at a Sprint kiosk when he saw the SUV crash into Forever 21.
“He was driving in reverse and hitting things, driving in reverse and hitting things, trying to do as much damage as he could,” the employee recalled. “And I knew he was coming toward my kiosk.”
Taylor fled in fear to try to hide. About 15 seconds later, he saw the SUV smash into the kiosk where he had just been standing, wrecking the structure.
He was terrified, thoughts of “my family, getting away, getting to safety, trying not to get hit,” all flashing through his mind in that brief instant.
Jonathan Galingan, 31, was working in a cosmetics store on the second floor of the mall when he heard the commotion of people yelling and running.
“All of a sudden, we just see people bolting across our store, bolting into our store,” said Galingan, a manager at Morphe.
For a time, people thought there might be someone shooting in the mall, Galingan said.
“They were yelling, ‘Active shooter!’ We all panicked and were in shock, so we started escorting people toward our back door,” Galingan said.
He said they didn’t see or hear the car, which was a level below.
Galingan said he and three employees helped lead 20 customers out an emergency exit at the back of the store and descended a staircase that brought them outside the building.
“I was thinking of the children that were coming in, being yanked by their parents,” Galingan said.
Galingan didn’t have time to grab the keys for his car, so he and his co-workers walked toward a nearby parking lot and watched the emergency crews that converged on the scene.
“I’m still in shock,” he said. “I can’t believe that an incident like this happened at the mall.”
(Chicago Tribune’s Elyssa Cherney, Dawn Rhodes, Deanese Williams-Harris, Daniel Haar, Liam Ford, Angie Leventis Lourgos, and freelancer Elizabeth Owens-Schiele contributed.)
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