911 calls from Woodfield: 'There's a maniac driving through the mall'
Emergency dispatchers dealt with more than a hundred calls in the minutes after a man drove an SUV through a Sears entrance at Woodfield Mall and into the mall's common area Friday.
The first few calls released by Northwest Central Dispatch System reveal the chaos and panic that unfolded shortly after the 22-year-old man driving the SUV crashed through the storefront just after 2 p.m. that day.
“I'm over at Woodfield Mall and there's a maniac driving through the mall in a maroon SUV,” an unidentified woman screamed into the phone in one of the 10 calls released Monday. “He drove all through Sears, through the main entrance, went past the Rainforest Cafe and the way out down to the other section. Everyone is evacuating the building. Security is evacuating the building. It was so fast and the person kept barreling through the stores.”
Several callers reported hearing that it was a shooting, though they did not hear any shots themselves and police quickly concluded no shots had been fired.
“Someone is saying there's a shooting,” said one woman who was running from Sears to her car. “Oh my God!”
“Do you see anyone with guns or anything like that?” the dispatcher asked.
“No, but someone was running out of the mall saying there was a shooting. People are running out of the mall. I don't know,” the woman responded.
A manager at J.C. Penney is heard at the beginning of one calling urging customers to flee the store.
“Customers are running through our store saying there's a shooting in the mall,” the manager told the dispatcher. “They're saying there's a shooting.”
The driver — who remains under observation at a mental health facility and has not been charged, according to police — smashed through the entrance and made his way through Sears and into the mall before he began caroming off storefronts and kiosks. He eventually came to a stop and was subdued by customers including off-duty police officers, police said.
Several calls came from workers and customers who were hiding inside stores. Dispatchers told the callers to shelter in place until police arrived.
“What's going on?” one female caller asked in a recording. “We're at Zales. We're in a back room and we don't know what to do.”
Some shoppers ducked into the first store they could find.
“We saw people running down the ramp towards us and we heard popping and that, and everybody was running, so we ran, and I don't even know what store we're in,” the woman said. “We're hiding in a closet in a store.”
By then, police had arrived and taken the driver into custody, dispatchers reported.
Three people were taken to the hospital in the aftermath, but they were suffering from other medical issues and had not been struck by the car, police said.
Schaumburg Mayor Tom Dailly called for barriers at all entrances to the mall, and Woodfield's management responded Sunday that it does not control the entrances to all stores, including to those for big retailers like Sears. The village of Schaumburg issued a statement Monday saying “this incident is certainly a serious matter and village officials and staff are regarding it as an opportunity to review safety measures and emergency response efforts at Woodfield Mall.”
It said public safety personnel met with mall security representatives Monday morning and more meetings are planned.
“The village will also consider the comments of citizens and other interest parties as part of the process,” the statement said.