ALLEN, Texas — As eyewitness accounts of the mass shooting at an outlet mall in Allen, Texas, continued to pour in, survivors described a harrowing account of the carnage in which a gunman shot and killed eight people Saturday night at Allen Premium Outlets, about 29 miles northeast of Dallas.
Police killed the suspect, whom they identified as Mauricio Garcia, 33.
Garcia had a tactical vest and was armed with a rifle of some kind, as well as a handgun, a senior law enforcement official said. More weapons and ammunition were found in his car, the official said.
Employees, shoppers and their relatives said they would never forget the terrifying scene that played out before them.
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Steven Spainhouer rushed to the mall after his son, who was barricading inside the H&M store break room, called him frantically. Spainhouer, a former police officer, said he pulled a young boy, covered in blood, from underneath his wounded mother.
“The trail of blood from where the victims were laying to the police car will stick in my head forever,” Spainhouer said.
Spainhouer said he was one of the first to arrive before police got to the scene. Seven people were on the ground, shot in front of the mall. He began checking for pulses.
One victim died as Spainhouer performed CPR on him.
“There was nothing I could do,” he said.
Jaquetta Jones, 39, got a call from her son, Jamal, 20, who was eating at a hamburger restaurant when the shooting began.
“He called me … and he was very muffled, stating: ‘Mom, there’s an active shooter. We’re hiding in a bathroom,’” Jones said. Her son and his friends were safely evacuated.
Keith Pickens, 61, a supervisor at Perry Ellis men’s store, said he traveled from Oklahoma City to help manage the Allen location for a few weeks.
“I was standing near the front of the store when a lady came in running, saying: ‘It’s a shooting! It’s a shooting!’ I immediately ran to the front, locked the door. I was shaking locking the door,” he said. “I was just nervous, shaking.”
Pickens said that 31 customers in the store and that they moved everyone to the stock room.
“We were there for about an hour until the police officers finally came and escorted us across the street,” he said.
Anjali Patel, 29, who was visiting from Houston, was eating at a taco truck with her 7-year-old son and family when they heard gunshots.
“They started firing, and it sounded like fireworks,” she said. “All of a sudden, people were running by, through the parking lot, so we started running, too. We didn’t know where to run. We just ran away from the gunshots. We felt like the gunshots were getting closer and closer.”
She continued: “We were terrified. We’re just thankful we’re alive, thank you to God.”
Rama Bataineh, 20, a Coach store employee who was on her lunch break, said she tried to seek shelter in her car.
The door was locked. She called her store manager, who opened a back door for her to enter.
“I went inside, and all the customers, all the employees, everyone was in the back sitting on the floor. Everyone was terrified,” Bataineh said.
When the shooting stopped, police escorted the group outside, where Bataineh encountered a macabre scene.
“I saw a body, there was a guy in front of me. I didn’t sleep all night. I’d wake up and throw up,” she said.
Maxwell Gum, 16, a pretzel stand employee, said he and several other people hid in a storage room as shots rang out.
“We started running. Kids were getting trampled,” he said. “My co-worker picked up a 4-year-old girl and gave her to her parents.”
Shoppers Stan and Mary Ann Greene said they were looking around a Columbia sportswear store when they heard “loud popping,” she said. Employees closed the security gate to the store and took everyone to the rear until officers arrived.
The shooting was the seventh mass shooting in Texas since the Uvalde massacre a year ago, which killed 21 people, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University.
Residents in the area described feeling a growing sense of exasperation at the frequency of the shootings.
“I listened on the media to folks from Uvalde express how frustrated they were when they got those calls. I hoped I would never have to have that. I am standing here today feeling the same emotions of the parents in Uvalde,” Spainhouer said. “No dad should have to see his son walk out of a store with his hands up past three bodies.
“If you think your community’s immune, Allen is one of the safest cities in the United States, and it happened in Allen.”
Char Adams reported from Allen and Uwa Ede-Osifo from New York.