4 people shot, one shooter at large after gunfight in Oakbrook Center
Shoppers and workers at Oakbrook Center in Oak Brook ran for cover or quickly locked down during the final Christmas shopping rush Thursday evening as two men started a gunfight inside, wounding three women nearby.
One of the shooters was wounded and is in a hospital, a companion of one of the shooters is in custody, and the other shooter is at large, police said. All three were involved in a confrontation, police said.
Police described the suspect at large as a Black man with long, dark dreadlocks who appears to be in his 30s, with a medium build and height. Oak Brook police Chief James Kruger said earlier that he was wearing "a blue puffy coat" and a mask, and police released a surveillance picture showing him walking with the companion who's now in custody.
Kruger said an officer working holiday detail at the Nordstrom store heard gunfire in the eastern part of the mall, in the corridor by the Ann Taylor store, at about 5:45 p.m. and called for help.
"There were two subjects that were engaged in gunfire with each other," he said.
The two men ran into the Nordstrom store trying to flee, Kruger said.
Three women were hit by stray gunfire: two in their 40s each shot one time in a thigh, and one in her 20s shot in her right foot. They were not involved with the shooting, Kruger said.
The shooter in custody is a man in his 30s who was shot four times -- once in each thigh, once in his right calf and once in the lower back -- and underwent surgery, Kruger said. All four of the wounded were taken to Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove with injuries not believed to be life-threatening.
"It is our understanding that the two suspects involved in the shooting were known to each other and shot at each other," he said.
Another person, a woman in her 20s, suffered a broken ankle trying to flee the scene. She was being treated at Elmhurst Hospital in Elmhurst.
Police said they recovered two pistols and a vehicle. Kruger said the vehicle was the unwounded suspect's.
Kruger said approximately 100 officers from various police agencies in the area were on the scene, including the entire staff of the Oak Brook police department, to clear the mall.
Police said the mall was secure and turned back over to mall management at 11:55 p.m. Earlier, Kruger said, police had asked people inside to shelter in place to make sure the suspect at large was not still in the mall. Police put together a family reunification site at the Marriott Hotel near the mall on 22nd Street.
Quickly after the shooting, people posted on social media that they were locked down inside stores. Police cars, fire trucks and ambulances surrounded exits.
Witnesses said shoppers went running, panicked, to hide in stores and restaurants when gunshots rang out.
Chicago resident Martrice Hatcher, an employee at Express, said the shooting started by Nordstrom and continued to Auntie Ann's pretzel shop and "our store, Express, which is in the middle of Nordstrom's and Auntie Ann's," she said.
"All I know is that I heard two shots and I heard a brief moment of silence. And then after that, I just saw everybody running and panicking and just trying to get their kids together.
"It was pretty scary. On my side of town, I have experienced gunshots, but I have never been that close, where I could actually see it happening in front of me," Hatcher said. "It was really just traumatizing, because I have kids at home. I don't like to hear or see kids in stress or distress."
Viviana Salas, who works at the Express store, said she was working in front of the store.
"All I hear is gunshots and people moving, yelling, screaming. At that point the store went on lockdown," she said.
Hatcher and Salas said they were in lockdown in the store for two hours.
Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso said he was shopping for a new phone with his 28-year-old daughter at the Apple store when she noticed a commotion and people running in to the store. Someone yelled there was a shooting, and Apple employees quickly locked the doors to the store and led the approximately 50 customers inside to the back and into a basement.
At 8:45 p.m. they were still there, waiting for police to give them permission to leave.
Grasso praised the Apple staff for how quickly and efficiently they acted. The workers told him they had trained for such an event, he said.
"It's a sad situation in America that this could happen two days before Christmas," Grasso said.
Kruger said the mall has a communications system that put out an alert to all mall employees immediately.
DuPage County Board member Pete DiCianni said he was shopping nearby in Elmhurst at the time of the shooting and saw the police response.
A brother-in-law was shopping in Nordstrom at the time, and a cousin was outside with her children and heard 15 shots, DiCianni said. None were injured.
"We need to send a message that we don't tolerate this kind of crime in our county," DiCianni said.
Kruger said there has been an increased police presence at the mall since the Louis Vuitton store was robbed by a dozen-plus people in mid-November. Nobody has been arrested in that case.
"Even though this incident occurred, we had an officer within earshot that was there to be able to respond immediately," he said of Thursday's shooting.
"This is just a very unfortunate incident that is completely out of character for our area. We would never have anything like this occur. It's very unfortunate, and we're going to do everything we can to ensure that nothing like this happens again," Kruger said.
Oak Brook Village President Gopal Lalmalani said he was proud of the work done by Oak Brook and area police.
"Certainly this took us by surprise, but our police officers acted quickly and responsively and they made whatever arrests that they could," Lalmalani said. "My prayers go to those who were injured."