ROSS TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Police from nearly half a dozen different agencies rushed to Ross Park Mall Saturday afternoon after a fight broke out in gunfire, sending shoppers running in all directions.
According to Lt. Brian Kohlhepp with Ross Township police, shortly after 4:30 p.m. there was a fight inside the mall that involved as many as six people. Guns were pulled during the fight and officers said witnesses reported hearing one to three gunshots.
The fight happened on the second floor of the mall near Guest Services.
Officers said two juvenile males were in custody Saturday evening in connection with the shooting. Both teens are 17 years old. They have not yet been charged.
Investigators said three guns were recovered from inside the mall
There were no injuries in connection with the shooting or the evacuation of the mall.
Kohlhepp slammed the mall’s parent company, Simon Properties, saying officers were at a disadvantage because there are no cameras inside common areas. Anchor stores and some interior shops have their own cameras.
“Unfortunately, despite numerous attempts by our department to convince Simon Properties to put cameras in the mall, they have continued to refuse to do that,” Kohlhepp said.
Officials said they are going to have to rely heavily on social media and cellphone videos for their investigation.
Allegheny County’s district attorney is echoing the push for more surveillance.
“The best deterrent to criminal activity is knowing that you’ll be seen and subsequently knowing that you’ll be caught. I have asked Simon Properties to do what I believe is the right thing by installing cameras, and they have told me no,” Zappala stated.
Simon Properties also has a mall in Bethel Park and South Hills Village.
We spoke to Bethel Park’s police chief earlier, and he said there aren’t cameras there, and he wants that to change immediately.
Channel 11 reached out to Simon Property Group about why there aren’t any cameras in the mall, and if they anticipate changing that. We haven’t heard anything back.
Shoppers like Jason Bertocchi, who was in the mall at the time the shots went off, said that he would feel better about going to the mall if cameras were installed.
“I think cameras would deter people from doing that again. So if they wanted to put them in moving forward, I think it would be a good idea for everyone’s safety.”
McKnight Road nearby was shut down in both directions to allow for people to exit the mall property and to allow first responders to get there as quickly as possible.
Inside the mall
Shoppers described a chaotic scene after hearing the gunshots. One witness told Channel 11 she heard the shots and then started running to get outside.
A store manager said she witnessed the fight outside her store.
“I was toward the back of the store and I had a Sales Associate in front greet, and we saw a lot of stuff, like kids fighting in front of the store. And they all had guns on them. And Security came running towards them and yelled ‘gun.’ Once we heard ‘gun,’ my Sales Associate started running towards the back of the store,” said Altar’d State store manager Julie Ruiz.
Shoppers and employees worked quickly to shuttle people inside, into back rooms and storerooms, and piled items in front of doors.
Photos and videos from shoppers inside showed people packed into tight areas for hours as they waited for police and SWAT units to go store-by-store and escort them to safety.
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