Tacoma Mall parking lot shooting chaos caught on camera, stores locked down

Cell phone video captured the chaotic moments after a shooting at the Tacoma Mall sent customers running for safety and forced many of the stores into lockdown.

Witnesses say the shots were fired near the food court area of the mall Saturday evening. FOX 13 News talked to one family who took cover in the back of a store and another man who captured part of the shooting on video after the gunman ran past him into the parking lot.

Anthony Ballenger said he was working on the patio at the Cheesecake Factory when the shots rang out and panic erupted.

"We had guests crying. People were running in the back hiding. It was pretty chaotic at that point," said Anthony.

He says he witnessed an argument and saw a man pull out a gun and fire several shots. He captured one of the last rounds fired on video. 

"It looked like there was two different groups of people that were arguing back and forth, that were arguing with each other originally, and one guy had a hand in his coat," said Anthony.

He says the man who fired first had a sweater pulled over the lower half of his face.

"The guy that started the shooting was firing at the other guy after he ducked behind a car," said Anthony.

He says hundreds were trying to flee to safety from the terrifying situation, including a number of families and children that had come to enjoy Saturday at the mall. 

"They're like, ‘Okay, everybody towards the back’," said Monica Gasper, a mom from Gig Harbor. 

Monica says she and her family were in Express when they rushed to a back room to hide and the store was locked down.

"We ran towards the back, and they locked us back there and someone suggested the women and the kids be in one room, not towards the door," said Monica.

While Monica's son kept busy playing on Dad's phone, Monica worried.

"I didn’t want to look too worried in front of my kids, so I tried to stay positive," she said.

Tacoma Police issued a statement Saturday evening, saying that before 5:30 p.m., officers responded to a call of shots fired in the parking lot of the Tacoma Mall. Two groups of people were reported to have exchanged shots and fled in cars. No injuries were reported at that time. 

"Shockingly, there was people still coming in with police everywhere, sitting down to eat. But, we didn’t close. A lot of the staff went home," said Anthony.

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Anthony praised his managers for keeping everyone safe, and the store locked down. He says they were also concerned about employee's mental health and were supportive. He says unfortunately, the shooting is a sign of the times.

"The world is changing. This is unfortunately something that happens all too often," said Anthony.