Mall shooting leaves staff and shoppers shaken

Crossgates Mall

The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer

The red of police-car lights joins the usual neon signs beckoning shoppers at Crossgates Mall Saturday evening. 

GUILDERLAND — Police had no suspect in custody Sunday, after Crossgates Mall was locked down and raided by police amid reports of shots being fired inside Saturday afternoon.

“This was an isolated incident,” Guilderland Police Chief Carol Lawlor said at a Sunday press conference. “This was an argument between two individuals and there was a shot fired.” Witnesses reported hearing multiple shots.

No injuries have been reported, Lawlor said, and she would not comment on the details of the investigation and its “several solid leads.” She declined to comment on whether it was a gang-related shooting.

One suspect is being described as a 6-foot black male wearing a black hoodie and a white shirt. Lawlor has called on Saturday shoppers to send to police any photos that could be remotely relevant.

Crossgates Mall opened again at 11 a.m. Sunday morning. Shoppers holed up in the mall’s many stores were being released as S.W.A.T. teams reached them Saturday evening.

Asked about changes to mall security measures, Joe Castaldo, director of shopping center management at Pyramid Management Group, deferred to police handling the sole incident. Lawlor said police would have a greater presence Sunday.

Multiple police agencies, including State Police and Federal Bureau of Investigation, responded to the 2:20 p.m. call Saturday of unconfirmed reports of shots fired at the sprawling mall, near the lower level Apple store and Burlington Coat Factory. Witness accounts from the frenzied evacuation were varied and unconfirmed.

 

The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia
Carol Lawlor, chief of Guilderland Police, speaks at a Sunday press conference, joined by Guilderland Supervisor Peter Barber, at right, and Joe Castaldo of Pyramid Management Group.

 

Lawlor said two men who were taken into custody as persons of interest because they matched the suspect’s description were later released since they were not involved.

As people fled the building Saturday afternoon, they left behind all manner of personal things, which Castaldo said would be collected and organized for people to identify for release. Belongings left inside of tenant stores would need to be retrieved through the stores, he said.

Vildan Saribal who works at a kiosk on the entrance floor of Crossgates Mall was leaving quickly with tears in her eyes at 3:45 p.m. She had been told to leave the mall without taking anything with her.

“There were two men, they were shooting at each other," said Saribal.

Her companion said, “We all ran outside. They didn’t let us get in to get our things."

The mall was being evacuated and locked down as customers posted photographs on social media of police carrying rifles and warning viewers to stay away from the mall.

 

 The floorplan of Crossgates Mall, the scene of S.W.A.T. teams and evacuating, frightened shoppers Saturday afternoon.

 

As a helicopter whirred overhead and a small stream of shoppers walked away from the mall, a young woman with a baby and a stroller said people were kept in the back of stores. She had been shopping at the GAP. She said of the responders, “They were wonderful. They said they had just practiced just two days ago.” She had not heard any shots. She said she was scared.

Fragments from a shooting scene

Strangers were thrown together by the shooting at Crossgates Mall, and pieces of their lives unfolded as clusters of people who had been inside at the time of the shooting — both employees and customers — waited in the cold on Saturday evening as darkness fell.

Police officers with rifles stood at the mall doorways. An officer with a leashed German shepherd was on patrol. Others wore bullet-proof vests and helmets — strange in a suburban setting.

Bright ribbons of sunset streaked the sky as people looked up at the helicopter.

Chrissy Marinucci pushed a cart through the near-empty parking lot to the car where her husband waited. The two of them had been in the food court on the mall’s lower level.

“All of a sudden, people started pushing and running behind me. I thought they were late for a birthday party at Dave and Buster’s. Then someone behind me said, ‘Lady, you’ve got to get out of here, guns are being shot.’”

Marinucci said she heard three shots. “We ran to Dick’s,” she said of the sporting goods store. “They shut the door on us.” She worried about her husband, who has Parkinson’s disease, but they made it out safely and hoped to drive soon to their home in Colonie.

A young man in a stylish gray suit who goes by the name of A.J. stood outside the Crossgates peaked-glass entrance. He works at Via Roma. “I was next door,” he said of where the shooting took place. “I never heard shots,” he said, explaining the music had been loud. “I just seen everybody running.”

He learned why they were running from two girls who, he said, “hid in our store.”

Alexus Thomas huddled nearby with her co-workers from Auntie Anne’s Pretzels. They said they were cold. They had left the mall without their coats.

“We saw a whole group of people run,” Thomas said, thinking at first they were just kids horsing around. “Then we saw parents running with their kids and they had frightened looks. People thought it was a fire.”

Standing next to Thomas’s group were several teenage girls. Anna Pace of Manchester, Vermont explained that they had been sitting at the Melting Pot when their server said there had been an incident with a gun in the mall. Police arrived on the scene and the restaurant was evacuated, she said.

Two of the girls in the group were exchange students from Germany. Amelie Feimer, a 15-year-old from Stuttgart, said, “We are a bit shocked. We didn’t have this before.”

Mary, who lives locally, took a young man she didn’t know into her car to keep warm until he could be reunited with his mother. “I was half-way through a pedicure,” she said, taking her foot out of her shoe to show the unpainted toenails. “People started running and said, ‘Get out!’” She did.

The 18-year-old she took in, Brendon, wore a University at Albany sweatshirt. He is a student there. His mother, Robin, had traveled from New Jersey to see him.

As they reunited with a long hug in the parking lot, Mary joined the mother and son.

“We’re out and we’re safe,” said Brendon as tears welled in his eyes.

Robin said she had been in Vera Bradley. “I was so scared. We were walking in single file. There were 15 cops, each with a rifle in his hand.”

“This will be a story you can tell your grandchildren someday,” Mary said to Robin. “He has a girlfriend,” said Robin.

Throughout the thin crowd that formed a fringe along the mall entrances, various stories were traded about what had been heard, about what had actually happened. Some had heard two men were apprehended and a sweep was underway for a third. Others had heard one suspect got away. The police on the scene said they weren’t allowed to say.

Usman Zulfi of Clifton park, who has aspirations of becoming a policeman, listened to a police radio as he waited to be reunited with his girlfriend. She was on the upper floor in the back of a store and was safe, he said. They had communicated by cellphone.

Zulfi had pictures on his phone of the two persons of interest being led in handcuffs by police.

At 5:20 p.m., Tarynna Fitzpatrick and Cody Brothers were still waiting outside Crossgates Mall, hoping to be readmitted since Brothers had dropped off his phone to be fixed and wanted to retrieve it before going back home to Sharon Springs.

They had been in the Zwarovski store, directly above where the shooting occurred, said Fitzpatrick. Currently a student at Herkimer County Community College, she is shortly taking a Civil Service exam to become a patrol officer, Fitzpatrick said.

She is sure of what she heard: “Three gunshots — one, then,” she said, pausing, before speaking rapidly, “one, two.”

Fitzpatrick was in the store with her boyfriend, Brothers, her two little sisters — ages 11 and 13 — and her best friend. After the shooting, they were moved into a storage room and bathroom at the back of the store along with employees — about a dozen of them altogether in a cramped space.

“My sister sat on the toilet,” said Fitzpatrick. They were in the confined quarters for about an hour, she said. “We were locked in with a woman with a baby,” she said.

They were in Zwarovski’s, which sells crystal jewelry, in the first place, because, said Fitzpatrick, “I’ve been obsessed with an engagement ring.” She looked at Brothers.

“Well,” he said, looking skyward.

The helicopter drowned out the rest of his reply.

 

The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer
A helicopter circled Crossgates Mall for several hours on Saturday evening after a shooting at the mall.

This page will be updated as more information is gathered.

More Guilderland News

  • As always, village officials stressed that the numbers presented at Altamont’s first budget workshop of the year are still very preliminary. 

  • The Bull & Basil Wood Fired Pizza

    Craig Turnbull, the owner of Bull & Basil Wood Fired Pizza, moved to Voorheesville about a year ago, and has been cooking at various farmers’ markets and breweries in the area ever since. He is now considering the opportunity to turn Bull & Basil into a brick-and-mortar business, he told the Guilderland Planning Board this week.

  • Altamont Treasurer Catherine Hasbrouck told the board of trustees last year that water-and-sewer rates had to be raised so the village could collect another $100,000 per year for general operations and maintenance.

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.