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Shootings, safety at Penn Square Mall

With two shootings at Penn Square Mall occurring within a month of each other, Oklahoma City shoppers are raising concerns about their safety in public spaces.

The first shooting, on Thursday, Dec. 19, occurred in the food court and resulted in one injury. The city charged the suspect, Elizha Sanders, with assault and battery with a deadly weapon. On Saturday, Jan. 18, the second shooting followed near the theater area.

The mall released a statement to News 9 immediately following the second shooting.

“We are committed to providing a safe and secure shopping environment for our shoppers, retailers and employees,” the statement read. “We have a highly skilled and experienced security team that utilizes a number of proactive security measures, both seen and unseen. We also maintain a close working relationship with local law enforcement authorities to ensure that the appropriate security measures are being taken to help provide and maintain a safe environment at our property.” 

Oklahoma Christian University professor and Dean of Liberal Arts Tina Winn was shopping at Eddie Bauer on Dec. 19 when she heard three gunshots.

“I stood up on the bench where you would set your things so that my feet wouldn’t be [seen],” Winn said. “At the time, you think that if someone’s coming down just spraying you don’t want them to see that someone is in there. We stayed there for quite a while.”

Winn said she had never seen more guns or officers in her entire life. Still, she has visited Penn Square three times since the shooting.

“From my perspective, I don’t think there’s anything unique about Penn Square Mall that makes it any more dangerous than anywhere else that’s a public place,” Winn said, “I don’t want to be controlled by my fears and situational variables that are not accurate. I’ve gone back two or three times, maybe even more than that.”

Oklahoma Christian student Tiffany McCune works at the Altar’d State located in Penn Square Mall. She would have typically been at the food court during the time of the shooting.

The crazy thing is one of the managers brought pizza that day,” McCune said. “So if she didn’t bring pizza that day, I would’ve been in the food court around where the shooting happened. It’s a God thing in my opinion. All of a sudden I looked up at the cameras, and I just see 15 people running.”

After closing the store gate and hunkering down with 16 customers in the back room, McCune sat and waited for over two hours until one of her associates saw a SWAT team walk by the storefront.

“We walked out of the mall, and there were cops everywhere,” McCune said. “Our store is located [near] the main entrance which is the main area where all the cops were. It was so hard to get out of the parking lot. But thankfully, everyone was fine. It was really crazy. A lot of people were crying; customers were crying.”

According to McCune, the shooting marked the third time she had to close the store’s gate for safety reasons.

“Honestly, I knew something like this was going to happen because there are incidents at the mall every day,” McCune said. “Especially over the summer when I was working more hours, just noticing thefts and fights in the food courts, fights in the stores. It’s clearly posted on every single entrance there are no guns allowed. Still, that’s not going to stop anybody.”

While McCune was not on duty during the second shooting, her associate said they hunkered down and took everyone in the back again. McCune advises students to shop at Quail Springs due to its closer location and safer environment.

“The mall is really bad,” McCune said. “I shop at Quail Springs Mall. I don’t even shop at the mall that I work at. That kind of tells you how what I see all day when I’m there almost 40 hours a week and see what’s happening, I choose to shop at a different mall.”

After the first shooting occurred, McCune said she noticed slight changes in the safety efforts made by the mall.

“Before this shooting happened, there would rarely be a cop car parked [out front],” McCune said. “After the first shooting, there was always a cop car parked there. Even after the second shooting, they said there was an off-duty police officer in the mall. I think they were taking precautions to try to be more aware, but obviously it didn’t necessarily work.”

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