Second person dies, suspect still at large after Black Friday shooting at Sacramento mall

Vincent Moleski and Tony Bizjak
The Sacramento Bee

Sacramento, Calif. – A second person has died after being wounded in a shooting inside Arden Fair during the height of Black Friday shopping in what was described as a targeted and isolated attack.

The victim, a 17-year-old male, was pronounced dead at a hospital several hours later, the Sacramento Police Department said Saturday morning. The other victim, identified by police as a 19-year-old male, was pronounced dead at the mall by Sacramento Fire Department personnel.

On Friday night, shoppers and workers quickly evacuated the sprawling shopping hub following the shooting at 6:11 p.m., which took place near the mall’s southwest entrance, according to police. That entrance is between the Forever 21 store and the former Sleep Number location, and below the food court.

Police stand outside Arden Fair Mall after a shooting that left one person dead and another critically injured, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020, in Sacramento, Calif.

In announcing the teen’s death, the Sacramento Police Department said a suspect, described as a male in his 20s, remained at large.

“We will be doing everything that we can to identify the suspect or suspects who are involved in this incident and make an arrest in this,” police spokesman Officer Karl Chan said during a 9 p.m. news conference. He encouraged anyone with information to call authorities.

The shooting sent shoppers running from the mall. Police advised others shoppers to leave the property and for nearby motorists to avoid the area. Mall employees said they heard eight to 12 shots.

Antwon Martinez, who works inside the mall, said he and his co-workers heard two rounds fired before another burst of gunfire exploded 10 seconds later.

“Heard a couple of shots go off, didn’t really think anything of it,” he said. “And more and more kept going off, so everyone started running toward our back room. … Everyone just started running.”

He said customers and workers evacuated through the corridors and stairways in the back of the mall.

Nathan Spradlin, a spokesman for Arden Fair’s operator, said the mall was closed for the night after the shooting, but he had no other immediate details. The mall was scheduled to close at 10 p.m. on what is typically the busiest shopping day of the year.

The mall is monitored via security video cameras by on-site staff. Those security personnel are cooperating with police, Spradlin said.

On Saturday morning, Arden Fair said it would reopen at its normal time of 10 a.m.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said he is awaiting information about the shooting, and said this is an example of why the city is increasing its efforts to combat gun violence. The City Council last week committed $3 million to nonprofit groups to work with teenagers who are at risk for being involved in gun violence.

“We are awaiting more details on this tragic incident,” he said in a text to The Bee. “We are deeply concerned by the increase in gun violence in Sacramento and other cities since the onset of COVID-19, and have supported increasing our city’s efforts to reach young people who are at risk. A gun is never the answer. “

Community activist Berry Accius, who was at the mall talking with victim family members, called the shooting “idiotic. There is no way you are going to get away with this.”

“This is an isolated shooting … whoever they wanted to target, it seems like they got one and we have another one fighting for their life,” he said.

Police said they are still investigating the motive for the shooting.

Accius echoed Steinberg’s comments, saying the mall should be safe ground where young people can come to be relaxed and not worry about violence. He said he believes the coronavirus pandemic has fomented more stress among young people, leading to more recent violence.

The city had gone through a period with few homicides, then, “the pandemic hit, and everything went to hell,” Accius said. “The pandemic has created such distress for so many people to where they are just lopsiding. … It gives a lot more opportunity for things like this to happen.”

Accius said he feared retaliation. “We are just trying to not have this spill into something more.”