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1 DEAD IN MALL SHOOTING – TWO OTHERS WOUNDED AS SHOPPERS HEAD FOR COVER

Rocky Mountain News (CO) – Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Author/Byline: Hector Gutierrez, Brian D. Crecente And Clayton Woullard , Rocky Mountain News
Edition: Final
Section: News
Page: 4A
An argument inside the Aurora Mall erupted into gunfire Tuesday night, leaving a young woman dead and two other people wounded as frightened shoppers screamed and ducked for cover.

An off-duty Aurora police officer who was providing security inside the mall chased two men into the southwest parking lot outside the J.C. Penney store after witnesses provided descriptions of the alleged assailants. Other officers responding to the call of shots fired inside the mall also raced to the parking lot and captured the two alleged gunmen, said Sgt. Rudy Herrera, police spokesman.

The mall, at 14200 E. Alameda Ave., is only a half-mile from the police department.

After the arrests, officers searched the parking lot and seized two handguns. It wasn’t clear late Tuesday whether both men were armed at the time of the shooting.

“We’re confident we got the shooters, and that’s what’s most important to us,” Herrera said. The pair were not identified early today.

Paramedics transported a man and a second woman suffering from gunshot wounds to the Medical Center of Aurora.

Witnesses said the man, who appeared to be in his early 20s, suffered a serious head wound. The woman who died where she fell at the bottom of a staircase was the wounded man’s “significant other,” the spokesman said.

One witness, Corey Rice, 27, rushed to the aid of the fatally wounded victim to provide comfort but realized it was to no avail after he saw the victim’s head wound.

“I was rubbing her back and rubbing her back, and I was saying to her, ‘You’re going to be OK,’ ” Rice said in the parking lot after the gunfire.

Rice was still carrying his white, bloodstained T-shirt, which he had used to apply pressure on the male victim’s wound moments before he tried to help the woman.

Witnesses said a second woman appeared to have suffered at least one gunshot wound in her arm. After she was hit by gunfire, she ran into the Champs Sports store for safety. She also was being treated Tuesday at the Medical Center of Aurora. Police said they believe she was an innocent bystander.

None of the victims was identified Tuesday.

Police officers and security personnel closed the mall and kept many businesses and their customers inside until they could secure the shopping center. Gradually through the night, mall employees and customers were being allowed to leave and bewildered shoppers who had just arrived were being turned away.

Detectives were trying to sort out what led to the confrontation between the two alleged assailants and the wounded man.

Herrera said the couple had walked out of a store about 7:30 p.m. on the bottom level of the mall when they confronted the two alleged gunmen.

The argument then moved to a staircase between Champs Sports and the Tilt Arcade, where the three men continued to challenge each other, witnesses said.

At one point, one of the armed men had reached the upper end of the staircase when one of them shouted to the man following them, “Let’s take this outside!” witness Shea Lantz, 27, recalled.

The angry victim tried to climb the stairs but was being held back by his lady friend, said Lantz, who works inside a mall store.

“I thought, ‘Oh, people are going to beat each other up,’ ” Lantz said. “The woman was screaming, ‘No, no, let’s not do this!’ She knew it was a bad idea.”

About that time the gunfire erupted, and Lantz remembered hearing about three or four gunshots.

“It sounded like a small-caliber. I thought it was like firecrackers,” Lantz recalled.

He then raced to his store where he helped a woman and two children leave through an emergency exit.

Meanwhile, Rice and his cousin, Ikey Jackson, 25, who were at the mall to browse, said they heard gunshots and screaming. Rice said he also was near the bottom of the staircase and near the victims when the shots rang out.

“I said, ‘Bro, get down!’ ” Rice said he told the male victim. A moment later the couple fell after being hit by the gunfire.

Rice initially ran to the wounded man, took off his shirt and applied pressure to his wound. He then removed his undershirt to apply additional pressure and checked the man’s pulse.

Jackson, who was visiting from Philadelphia, then ran to help the wounded male.

“I was trying to calm him down,” Jackson said. “I told him to sit down and relax. He was saying something to me, but it was really incoherent.”

Rice rushed to the fatally wounded woman and tried to help.

“She just kind of looked at me, closed her eyes and put her head down,” Rice lamented.

“I asked (Rice) ‘She’s dead, huh?’ ” Jackson said afterward. “He said, ‘She’s on her way out.’ “

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