Leo Juarez was working at a jewelry store inside the bustling Oaks shopping mall Saturday afternoon when panic swept through the upscale Thousand Oaks center.
“We heard commotion, people running to the opposite end of the mall yelling ‘Shooter!'” said Juarez, who heard police helicopters overhead as he watched people evacuate.
A man shot and killed his ex-wife and then shot himself in a murder and attempted suicide at the mall, causing panicked shoppers to stream for exits and prompting a huge police response.
Coming just weeks after a mass shooting at a Florida high school, the incident prompted minutes of fear amid reports of an active shooter. Authorities later described the incident as an act of domestic violence.
Samantha Castle, a 23-year-old manager of a GameStop near the site of the shooting, said she saw dozens of people running inside after the incident Saturday afternoon. As police raced toward the courtyard with rifles in hand, she hid inside the store for an hour behind an electronic gate.
Castle said she saw a “whole herd of people running” but didn’t hear any gunshots. With mass shootings a frequent topic of news coverage in recent weeks, Castle said she has been increasingly concerned about the potential for incidents at the mall.
The shooting came a week after another incident at the Glendale Galleria, when a security guard fired a gun trying to stop an attempted “smash-and-grab” robbery of a jewelry store. The sounds of the gunfire sent shoppers running for the exits, fearing an active shooter.
In the Oaks mall shooting, authorities received a call at 2:17 p.m. about gunfire inside a stationery store called the Paper Source, said Sgt. Eric Buschow of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies found the 30-year-old Thousand Oaks woman dead of an apparent gunshot wound and her 33-year-old ex-husband with life-threatening injuries inside the store, authorities said. The man, a Los Angeles resident, was transported to a local hospital, where he remains in critical condition.
Buschow said detectives reviewed surveillance footage that showed the man park near the mall at 2:09 p.m., and walk straight to Paper Source, where he knew his ex-wife was an employee. He began an argument with her, then quickly opened fire, according to Buschow.
“It appears that that was his purpose in going there,” Buschow said. “He didn’t linger or shop.”
Police were withholding the identities of the shooter and victim, pending notification of the families. The couple’s children, who were staying with a family member, were found unharmed and no one else was injured.
A handgun was recovered at the store, according to Buschow, who did not know if the shooter had a criminal record.
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Source: LA Times