Teen accused of shooting at Mall Eastridge, injuring three

Teen accused of shooting at Mall Eastridge, injuring three

A 17-year-old is facing multiple criminal charges related to Friday's shooting at the Eastridge Mall in Gastonia, which injured three people and caused a widespread police response.

GEMS reported transporting three people to Carromont Regional Medical Center with gunshot wounds. 

During the initial response, witnesses told officers that a potential suspect was seen running from the mall into a nearby wooded area. Gastonia (North Carolina) police officers found the 17-year-old in a wooded area and a gun nearby.

Police took the teenager into custody without incident and, after interviewing him, charged him with several criminal offenses related to the shooting of several victims at Eastridge Mall. Police did not release the suspect's name in the shooting because of his age.

The attorney general's office will have to ask the judge for permission on whether to charge the juvenile as an adult.

Investigators are continuing to work to determine the motive behind the shooting. Police are also trying to determine if there is any connection between the suspect and the three people who were shot.

Police now say that all those injured in the shooting were shot in the mall parking lot and that the victims fled inside to the mall's food court area after being shot.

Investigators have now also determined that the male victim, believed to be the fourth person shot in this incident and who himself was transported to a hospital in Charlotte, was not shot during the Eastridge Mall incident. Police said he is now believed to have been shot in a nearby jurisdiction.

Police officers swept Gastonia with guns drawn into the Eastridge Mall after a 911 call came in at 12:10 p.m.

Emergency workers initially found an adult man outside the mall near the dining hall with a gunshot wound. Officers were informed that there were additional casualties within the mall's food court area. Officers entered the mall and found an adult female and an adult with gunshot wounds.

Then the officers went from the mall store to a store to help workers, and shoppers get out safely.

"Thank God, there are no life-threatening injuries," Police Chief Travis Brittain said.

Police turned the mall into business, but it wasn't immediately clear when the mall would reopen.

Gerardo Ugalde of Gastonia said he was at the DMV when he heard three to four gunshots: "Bang! Bang, bang! Bang!"

"Then people run and scream and cry," he said.

Ugalde saw two people shot - a young man, who appeared to have cuts to his arm and leg, and a young woman about the same age with an amount to her leg.

"I froze," O'Galde said while the others were running.

Brett Benfield of Dallas said he was at Bath and Body Works when employees closed the store. He and other customers in the back waited about 20 minutes until he said, "They told us we needed to evacuate."

By then, he said, the police were flooding the parking lot. Penfield said he initially thought someone had brought a gun to the mall, and some had overreacted. When he heard that three people had been shot, he was shocked.

"It amazed me that something like this could happen in Gaston County," Benfield said.

Gazette photo editor Mike Hinsed saw GEMS removing two people in stores from one side of the mall's food court. The DMV office is located near the food court of the mall.

Forty or more officers responded to the scene, including tactical teams.

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