EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) — A day after sheltering in place during an active shooter scare at Eastland Mall, shoppers and workers are still trying to process what happened.
“It was so scary. We did not know what was going on. I was glad to be out of there because the scariest thought was being in there with my children and an active shooter. And if the shooter came in there, my number one goal was to protect my children,” said Briget Aussin, who was shopping inside the mall with her kids.
Aussin’s trip to pick up a gift order for Mother’s Day quickly turned into chaos.
“We heard a lot of screaming, so we went to the escalator, and we just saw people pouring out. I thought that someone was stealing at first so we went down the escalator and we thought it was a fight and then the workers came in and started locking the doors and said we couldn’t go anywhere,” Aussin said.
Aussin and her kids were shopping in J.C. Penny when they were told to take cover.
“At that point in time, I just had to talk to my kids and come up with a game plan on what to do in that type of situation. They briefly talked about those scenarios at schools, and I have had those talks but when you’re in that scenario your mind goes blank and you kind of freak out,” she said.
Two EPD officers were finishing a report in the parking lot when they saw people running from the mall, saying shots were fired. Around that same time, several 911 calls reported a large fight involving guns.
Officers both on and off duty rushed inside. The mall went into lockdown and shoppers ran into stores to hide.
“There was a lot of chaos and luckily the police responded and locked down everything,” Aussin said.
As Aussin and her kids were sheltering in the jewelry section of J.C. Penny, Lizzy Sinning was sheltering while at work in Old Navy.
“My manager immediately just yelled ‘run’ and she had seen a ton of people run by our entryway. There was a baby in the stroller crying and I had to make sure I got her in the back. She was like ‘I don’t want to die’ and I said ‘You are not going to’,” Sinning said.
Sinning said they were huddled in a corner in the back of the store for 15 to 20 minutes before police escorted them out.
“A kid that was in the back, his dad actually did not make it back with us. He was military, so to show that it was safe, he actually slid his military ID under the door while being on the phone with his son saying like ‘Hey it’s safe. The police are in here with me.’ It was definitely terrifying, but I did not feel terrified. The only thing I had the entire event was a pit in my stomach,” Sinning said.
Sinning said she and her service dog are doing ok.
Aussin on the other hand said she is scared to go back to pick up an order.
“I was picking it up and it was already paid for. You know, I have to go back today but I am not taking my kids this time. It’s uneasy because you never know what is going to happen in the aftermath of all of this,” Aussin said.
Police said no shots were ever fired, but they did find a gun magazine inside and a handgun under a vehicle in the parking lot.
Officers believe everything started with a large altercation when a gun was pulled.
Two juveniles were arrested and police expect more arrests.
Detectives are still looking through surveillance video.
Any witnesses are urged to contact EPD.