By SHEILA BURKE and JONATHAN MATTISE, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A fatal shooting set off pandemonium inside a mall in Nashville, Tennessee, provoking an outsized police response in the city where a gunman killed several people at a Waffle House less than two weeks ago.
The Opry Mills Mall was evacuated, a police tactical team swept the facility, at least a half a dozen ambulances converged on the scene and authorities said the adjacent Grand Ole Opry House and convention center were put on lockdown.
Two 22-year-old men were fighting inside the Opry Mills Mall before one of them pulled out a pistol and fatally wounded the other. Police said the gunman then gave up his weapon and surrendered, saying he didn’t want any more trouble.
The city is still processing the April 22 attack on a Waffle House restaurant by a nearly naked gunman with an AR-15. Four people were killed and four others were injured in that shooting.
Nashville Police were asked if they had the Waffle House attack in mind when they heard reports of an active shooter in the city’s largest shopping mall.
“Well, certainly we’re all human beings and there has to be the thought of Waffle House, just some days ago,” Police spokesman Don Aaron said. But when the call came in, Aaron said, police training kicked in to high gear.
Investigators are still trying to determine why the two men were fighting and what prompted Justin Golson to allegedly shoot Demarco Churchwell, who died later Thursday at a hospital. It wasn’t clear Thursday night if Golson will face charges or if he has a lawyer. He was in police custody and being interviewed by investigators.
The shooting couldn’t be heard over the battle scenes in a showing of “Avengers: Infinity War,” which was disrupted when officers in riot gear came into the theater and told everyone to leave.
“I’m just thinking Aurora, Colorado,” said Dave O’Brien, a crime and breaking news reporter for the Record-Courier in Kent, Ohio, who was visiting Nashville with his girlfriend to check out CrimeCon, a convention of true crime enthusiasts.
O’Brien said he grabbed his media credentials and then snapped some photos and tweeted them.
“The exits are blocked. Cops everywhere,” O’Brien said. “There’s a command post set up. News trucks and cop cars everywhere, just armed police officers. Their response time was incredibly quick.”
Jayla Chapple, 18, was in an employee meeting in the back of Moe’s Southwest Grill when two people rushed in saying there was a shooter in the mall. Chapple, a shift leader at the restaurant, said the employees started running outside through the rear exit.
“I really didn’t have time to think that much, but get out of there,” she said.
Troopers happened to be conducting motorcycle training in the mall’s parking lot at the time, so they set up a perimeter to support the responding police officers, Tennessee Highway Patrol Lt. Bill Miller said.
Metro Nashville Police said in a tweet Thursday that there was no further threat, but officers were sweeping through the mall to make sure after the shooting.
Tonya Young said she raced to the scene when she heard about the shooting because her 17-year-old daughter, Victoria Holt, works at one of the shops.
She later learned that her daughter was unhurt, but remained stuck outside while officers did their work.
“Until I physically lay eyes on her, I’m not going to be ok,” Young said. “I want to see her; I want to get to her.”
The mall was built on the former site of the Opryland USA theme park. With more than 200 stores, it is Tennessee’s biggest outlet mall, featuring a movie theater, a celebrity wax figure museum, restaurants and more.
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