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Christmas Eve shoppers return to Oakbrook Center day after 4 injured in mall shooting

Families walked around, some in Christmas attire, others eating snacks and window shopping. Many were disappointed to see their favorite stores closed.

A security guard talks to shoppers at Oakbrook Center on Friday afternoon, Dec. 24, 2021, a day after two men open fired at each other at the mall.
A security guard talks to shoppers at Oakbrook Center on Friday afternoon.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The popular Oakbrook Center mall reopened to last-minute Christmas shoppers Friday, albeit with noticeably smaller crowds and some stores closing their doors early after a shooting injured four people there the previous day.

Police and security officers were spread throughout the open-air mall and its parking lots, though there was little sign of the overwhelming police presence officials had said would engulf the massive property.

Families walked around, some dressed in Christmas attire, others eating snacks and window shopping. Many were disappointed to see their favorite stores closed.

One group after another walked up to Champs Sports, located near where the shots were fired Thursday, and were told by workers the store was closing early. A man locked the doors and said the staff was headed home for Christmas Eve because of Thursday’s incident.

Shoppers walk around Oakbrook Center on Friday afternoon, Dec. 24, 2021, a day after two men open fired at each other at the mall.
Shoppers walk around Oakbrook Center on Friday, a day after two men open fired at each other at the mall.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Other stores in the area, such as Athleta, shut their doors early, too. And some, like H&M, Evereve, J. Jill and Lilly Pulitzer posted signs in their doors saying they were closed for a few days.

“Due to the unfortunate events that took place in this shopping center this J. Jill location will be closed” through Sunday, read that store’s sign. The one at H&M said the store would be closed “to give our team a much needed break.”

Workers at various stores answered shoppers’ questions about the shooting, explaining how they locked down their stores and hid in back rooms the night before.

Lindsay Kahn, spokeswoman for mall manager Brookfield Properties, said foot traffic was similar to previous Christmas Eves, and about 85% to 90% of stores opened as usual while others closed due to the circumstances.

Parking lots were busy, though not filled, particularly given the unusually mild weather for a Chicago Christmas Eve. Police cars were stationed near some of the shopping center’s main entrances, while officers and security guards donning neon yellow vests patrolled inside.

Police officers walk around Oakbrook Center on Friday afternoon, Dec. 24, 2021, a day after two men open fired at each other at the mall.
Police officers walk around Oakbrook Center on Friday, a day after two men open fired at each other at the mall.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The search continued for the second shooter in what police described as a gunfight at the mall early Thursday evening that left four people injured and sent shoppers screaming and running for cover on one of the shopping center’s busiest days of the year.

Oak Brook police released a security image of the suspected gunman who fled after the shooting, which was captured on video. He was wearing what appeared to be a blue Moncler jacket and a light blue surgical mask.

The other alleged shooter, a man in his 30s, was taken into custody shortly after the incident and underwent surgery at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove for four gunshot wounds to his back, calf and thighs, Oak Brook police Chief James Kruger said. The DuPage County state’s attorney’s office hadn’t announced charges as of Friday evening.

The others injured included two bystanders, both women in their 40s, who suffered gunshot wounds to their thighs, and a woman in her 20s who broke her ankle while running from the scene, Kruger said. None of the injuries were considered life-threatening.

Officers found two guns at the scene, and arrested a man who was there with the gunman who fled, according to Kruger. SWAT teams took hours going store to store to clear the mall of threats before releasing the shopping center back to management just before midnight.

From left: Lili, Andy, Clarissa and Adan Brisena stand at Oakbrook Center mall as they enjoy their Christmas Eve shopping tradition.
From left: Lili, Andy, Clarissa and Adan Brisena at Oakbrook Center mall, where they continued their tradition of shopping on Christmas Eve.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The Brisena family drove up from Oak Lawn and was strolling through the mall Friday afternoon, mom Clarissa and son Adan snacking on pretzels, for their annual Christmas Eve tradition of shopping and dinner at a restaurant.

Clarissa Brisena and husband Andy Brisena said they were concerned when they heard about the shooting but ultimately decided they would keep their plans.

“We did second-guess it,” Clarissa said. “We were thinking of maybe even doing it during the weekend instead, or going somewhere else. But we felt comfortable enough to come because they felt comfortable enough to open the stores. And we knew that they’d probably have heightened police presence here.

“We made a plan, we’re all going to stick together, we’re not going to separate,” she said of Adan and her daughter Lili.

The family, frequent Oakbrook Center visitors, was headed to Perry’s Steakhouse, where they had a dinner reservation.

Andy said he was saddened to think of all the time the mall workers put in to create a festive atmosphere for families like his during the holidays only for yesterday’s incident to put that in jeopardy.

“You can feel” something happened at the mall, Andy said of the mood. “A little bit of tension here and there.”

Four people were wounded Thursday night, including one of the suspected shooters, according to Oak Brook police Chief James Kruger.
Four people were wounded Thursday night, including one of the suspected shooters, according to Oak Brook police Chief James Kruger.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times