Gunfire scatters patrons at mall

Secret Service agent among 3 people wounded at Westfield Annapolis

November 19, 2006|By Doug Donovan and Greg Garland | Doug Donovan and Greg Garland,Sun reporters

The crowded food court of the Westfield Annapolis mall turned into a scene of panic last night as a gunfight broke out and wounded three people - including an off-duty Secret Service agent who tried to stop the shooting.

The gunbattle erupted in an area of the upscale mall frequented by teenagers and spurred panic among hundreds of patrons, who fled screaming to escape what several witnesses said were at least 10 gunshots.

Anne Arundel County police said a group of youths surrounded a young man about 7:15 p.m. and began hitting him just inside the food court entrance.

The Secret Service agent, who had come upon the scene while shopping with his family, tried to break up the fight, police said. After one youth began shooting, the agent pulled out his weapon and "engaged in fire" with the shooter, police said.

Two youths and the Secret Service agent were shot, said Officer Sara Schriver, an Anne Arundel County Police Department spokeswoman.

The agent and the shooter were both transported to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. Police did not identify them last night, but said they were in stable condition with non-life threatening injuries.

The third wounded person, Tahzy Brown, was treated at Anne Arundel Medical Center for a gunshot wound to his lower left leg and was released before midnight. Brown is a 16-year-old junior at Annapolis High School who was involved in one of the many fights that have broken out at the school this year, said his mother, Tanjala Brown, 36.

Brown, a football and basketball player at the high school, was taken out last night in a wheelchair as he sipped a bottle of orange soda. He was driven off by family members who had waited outside the emergency room and watched reports about the shooting on CNN.

Tanjala Brown said violence at her son's high school is "getting out of hand" and that "it needs to stop."

She said that her son was jumped in September and police have never identified who attacked him. But she said he was not in school Friday, when seven students were arrested after two fights.

It was unclear last night if the shooting had anything to do with violence at the high school or if Brown was the target of last night's initial assault.

The triple shooting occurred as the mall prepares to enter the busy holiday shopping season.

Landon Lewnes, a 19-year-old employee at Day By Day Calendar Co., said one shot rang out and about seven to nine more followed in rapid succession.

"The shots were very loud," Lewnes said. "I ducked behind the counter after the first shot."

Shoppers sprinted from the food court in all directions through the mall, seeking refuge in other stores and hiding in bathrooms, witnesses said. A Borders Books & Music employee said it was like "a scene out of Columbine."

Ray Leone, a Borders manager, said nearly 50 people ran frantically through his store, out an exit and kept running to a restaurant across the parking lot.

Other managers of stores, who declined to give their names, said the food court emptied within seconds of the shots. Only food trays, trash and the wounded remained on the floor by the time police and security arrived.

The scene was incongruous at the mall, which is undergoing $100 million in renovations. The space will incorporate restaurants, more than 60 specialty shops and two mini-anchors, adding to its high-end roster of stores such as Williams-Sonoma.

A Secret Service spokeswoman confirmed the Police Department's account of the incident last night in an interview.

"At about 7:15 p.m., an off-duty Secret Service agent observed an altercation while at the Westfield Annapolis mall," Special Agent Kim Bruce said. "Our agent intervened when shots were fired and also discharged his weapon during the incident. He was transported to the hospital with injuries that do not appear to be life-threatening."

Special correspondent Chris Yakaitis contributed to this article.

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