Channel 2's Tyisha Fernandes spoke with store owners about what they saw.

The Mall at Stonecrest: calm after the shooting

A day after shots were fired at the Mall at Stonecrest, a popular DeKalb County shopping center near Lithonia, customers returned to the stores, but many questions remained unanswered.

Calls to the general manager of the mall were not returned Sunday, nor were calls to DeKalb County Police Department. No one answered the door at the DeKalb precinct that is in the mall.

Mall security guards said there were no injuries and no arrests Sunday but that the investigation continues.

Around 4 p.m. Saturday, during one of the busiest shopping days of the year, shots were fired during a confrontation between two groups of teens, sending mall visitors running in a panic.

“It was a stampede,” said Maxine Jackson, assistant manager at Shoe Dept. Encore, who was working that evening.

Store owners brought down their security gates and customers hid in back rooms while security guards combed through the building. Then the mall loudspeaker system crackled to life, informing those still inside that the mall was closing.

This video on Instagram shows an altercation at the mall, but it isn’t clear whether the person on the ground is injured and police have not confirmed it is the same event. Channel 2 Action News broadcast this cellphone video filmed inside a J.C. Penny’s, where customers scurried toward exits.

But on Sunday, one day later, shoppers went about their business seemingly unconcerned. “It’s as if nothing ever happened,” said Denise Alexander, manager of the shoe store.

Zulekha Rupani, tending a Stonecrest jewelery kiosk for a friend, said there were some differences: The crowd should have been bigger for a weekend day, she said, and she thought people were staying home.

Both Rupani and her helper, Ayesha Khan, were at work in the mall during Saturday’s shooting. Khan said the commotion began at the other end of the mall, and it was impossible to tell what was going on. All she saw were people running.

She hid in the back room of the Elegant Jewelers shop, near the Kohl’s department store. “There were 20 of us in one room,” she said. “People were crying.”

Because of recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Khan was worried that something similar might be happening in Atlanta. “I didn’t know what it was,” she said. “With all these things going around, I thought it might have come here.”

Some parents became separated from their young ones. “Two different ladies came up to me asking whether I had seen their children,” said Perry Gleaton, who runs an Avon products kiosk on the lower level.

Many customers interviewed Sunday were unaware that any sort of fight took place at Stonecrest the day before. One shopper, Tawana Rochester, who came to Stonecrest with her sons Melvin and Ian, said such an event doesn’t bother her. “I walk by faith, so I’m not troubled. I just pray.”

The closing of the mall by police left a mess behind. Traffic was tied up. Customers wandered through the parking lot of the locked mall, trying to find children, friends and family members. Shoppers and clerks left merchandise on the floors as they departed in haste.

Alexander the shoe store manager, said there were rumors that the conflict was between two rival gangs, but added “I think it was just kids doing wrong.”

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