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Suspected shooter among 4 wounded in brazen gunfight at Oakbrook Center mall, 2nd suspect at large, mall reopens Christmas Eve

The mall reopened Friday morning with a ‘heavy police presence’ as the search continued for one suspect.

A family walks back to their car at the Oak Brook mall in Oak Brook, Illinois, Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021. Two people were taken into custody after a shootout left four wounded and sent the mall into lockdown.
A family walks back to their car at the Oak Brook mall in Oak Brook, Illinois, Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021. Two people were taken into custody after a shootout left four wounded and sent the mall into lockdown.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Two people were in custody after a brazen gunfight wounded four people, including one of the suspected shooters and three apparent bystanders, sending holiday shoppers running for safety Thursday evening at an Oak Brook mall.

Around 5:45 p.m., an officer called for help after two men began shooting at each other near Oakbrook Center’s Ann Taylor store, according to Oak Brook police Chief James Kruger. The suspects ran in to a nearby Nordstrom store in an effort to flee.

Four people were struck by the gunfire, including one of the suspected shooters, Kruger said. Their injuries aren’t believed to be life-threatening.

The mall reopened Friday morning with what the police described as a “heavy police presence” as the search continued for the suspected gunman who fled.

The wounded suspect who was taken into custody was identified as a man in his 30s, Kruger said. He underwent surgery after suffering four gunshot wounds to his back, calf and thighs.

Two women in their 40s suffered gunshot wounds to their thighs. A woman in her 20s was shot in the foot. Another woman in her 20s suffered a broken ankle while running from the scene, Kruger said.

All were being treated at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Kruger said.

“This is a very unfortunate incident that is completely out of character for our area,” Kruger said of the affluent western suburb.

The other suspect who was taken into custody was described as a man in his 20s who was a companion of the suspected shooter who hasn't been found, Kruger said. His vehicle was located at the mall and was taken for processing.

Police were looking for a man who was a companion of the suspected shooter.
Oak Brook Police Department

Kruger said two pistols had also been recovered, including a 9mm handgun.

The second suspected shooter remains at large, according to Kruger, who said police planned to publicly release a surveillance photo. He appears to have left the mall.

A family walks out of the mall at the Oak Brook mall in Oak Brook, Illinois, Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021. Two people were taken into custody after a shootout left four wounded and sent the mall into lockdown.
A family walks out of the mall at the Oak Brook mall in Oak Brook, Illinois, Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021. Two people were taken into custody after a shootout left four wounded and sent the mall into lockdown.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

About 100 officers from multiple jurisdictions remained on the scene hours after the shooting as SWAT and tactical teams searched each store in the mall, Kruger said. By 9:30 p.m., about one-third of the mall had been cleared. Police secured the mall about 11:55 p.m. and turned it back to mall management, police said.

Stores were locked down immediately after the shooting was reported, Kruger said. Hours later, shoppers cleared to leave had begun trickling out of the high-end mall.

Despite the violence, the mall was expected to open between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Friday with an increased police presence, Kruger said.

“Certainly, this took us by surprise,” said Oak Brook Village President Gopal Lalmalani. “But our police officers acted quickly and responsibly, and they made whatever arrest that they could.

“And my sympathy and my prayers go to those who are injured actually. Luckily, there’s no casualties here, and I’m so happy that things have been taken care of.”

Shoppers who were at the mall when the shots rang out recalled a frantic rush, with some people being trampled as others were locked away in stores for safety.

Jennifer Shofner, 39, of Oak Park, was with a group of people who were searched by officers inside Nordstrom for hours after the shooting. By 8:30 p.m., she said they were sent home.

Shofner said she was in the store’s check-out line buying candles when she saw a wave of people, led by employees, pushing down a stairwell. She said the group had “mixed emotions” about being sealed away and searched, and that rumors were circulating about what happened.

“I keep thinking that I was potentially seven minutes from being at the wrong place at the wrong time,” she said, noting that the two dogs she brought shopping offered some comfort.

David Cortez was just doing some last-minute Christmas shopping at the Gap when he heard gunfire and was hustled out of harm’s way by the staff. The 30-year-old from Bridgeport said he was among roughly 60 people who holed up in a back room with little information.

“We were just waiting there until the cops came in and they escorted us out,” he said.

Alex Gay, 23, who lives in the Loop, recalled intercoms in the mall buzzing with an emergency message shortly after the shooting that warned shoppers to seek shelter. At that point, Gay said a rush began, and some people were trampled as they tried to escape.

Though she was ultimately able to get outside, Gay said she’s been left “extremely traumatized.”

“It all happened so fast,” she said. “People screaming, running.”

Contributing: Emmanuel Camarillo