COLUMBIA, S.C. — A holiday weekend was punctured by violence as 10 people were shot at a crowded South Carolina mall on Saturday and two others were injured in an ensuing stampede during the gunfire, the authorities said.
Two of those wounded were in critical condition, Chief William H. Holbrook of the Columbia Police Department said during a news conference.
The police received a call at 2:03 p.m. about a shooting near the Gap store at the Columbiana Centre mall. It was unclear what led up to the shooting, but three people were detained, though they had not been charged, Chief Holbrook said. At least one of them had fired a weapon, he said.
“We don’t believe this was random,” he said. “We believe that the individuals who were armed knew each other and that some type of conflict occurred that resulted in gunfire.”
The ages of the injured ranged from 15 to 73. Prisma Health hospitals treated nine patients, who were then discharged, and admitted two, Tammie Epps, a Prisma spokeswoman, said in an email. The condition of the 12th patient was not immediately known.
The shooting, during a busy weekend the day before Easter, sent mall patrons scrambling for safety.
Blair Mcilravy and Kailana Brown, both 11, were shopping inside Palmetto Moon, a clothing store, on Saturday with plans to attend the University of South Carolina’s spring football game afterward.
Then a series of shots rang out. Kailana’s mother quickly escorted them into a supply closet to hide.
“We heard people screaming and running and gunshots,” Blair said.
They had to call Blair’s mother, Keri Mcilravy, from a landline because Blair could get only one text off — “Mom” — before her cellphone stopped working. When Ms. Mcilravy arrived at the mall, the girls had been escorted outside by law enforcement officers.
“I went into fight mode,” Ms. Mcilravy said about learning that a shooting had trapped her daughter. “We broke every traffic law getting there.”
The police, who went store to store in a methodical sweep of the mall, instructed workers to shelter in place and wait for law enforcement officers to arrive. “DO NOT leave a store until told to do so by proper authorities,” the police said on Twitter.
In parking lots near the mall, officers — some wearing vests labeled “U.S. Marshal” or jackets marked “F.B.I.” — huddled under tents and next to squad cars, trying to put together why a Saturday afternoon of shopping had been pierced by gunfire.
Brookfield Properties, which owns the Columbiana Centre, describes the mall as “ideally situated to serve the affluent and rapidly growing north and northwest suburbs of Columbia, South Carolina’s capital and home of the University of South Carolina.”
In a statement on Twitter, the mall’s management said: “Today’s isolated, senseless act of violence is extremely upsetting and our thoughts are with everyone impacted. We are grateful for the quick response and continued support of our security team and our partners in law enforcement.”
A nearby hotel that was used as a site to reunite those who had fled the mall and their family members was packed after the shooting, said a woman who described the panic in people’s faces as they waited for loved ones. But several hours later, it was primarily law enforcement officers who lingered there.