A man with possible mental issues knocked over store displays, destroyed thousands of dollars in merchandise and shattered nerves Sunday inside the Tacoma Mall before shoppers pinned him to the ground.
Witnesses said the man punched two televisions, broke expensive perfume bottles and screamed and ranted during his minutes-long fit of rage that allegedly began near the food court, detoured into Macy’s and ended near a mall exit by Nordstrom.
“The guy was hearing voices and got upset because his family wanted him to leave,” said Tacoma police spokesman Mark Fulghum. “It sounds like he has mental problems.”
Shoppers initially told 911 dispatchers that they heard gunshots fired just after 2 p.m. Police said the man was not armed, no shots were fired and no one was injured.
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Although some stores temporarily lowered their security gates or locked customers in dressing rooms, the mall was not evacuated and remained open for business.
Witnesses said they saw the man fighting with a woman, whom police said is a family member, in the food court.
He was seen marching down the mall corridor, visibly angry as he knocked items off kiosk display shelves. The woman was tugging on the man’s shoulder in an apparent effort to calm him down.
Lindsey Millar, 23, of Seattle was in Victoria’s Secret with her friend Andrew Lazarin, 24, when they spotted the man and the woman walking.
“He was screaming about something. I don’t know what,” said Lazarin, of Olympia.
Witnesses inside Macy’s said the man was shouting, knocking over displays and sweeping merchandise off counters in the cosmetics area of the store. Broken perfume bottles littered the floor after the incident and the smells of high-priced perfumes overwhelmed customers near the Estee Lauder counter as workers swept up glass and scrubbed the floor behind yellow “Caution Wet Floor” signs.
The man rampaged his way out of Macy’s, stopping at the SDC Homes display to punch out a big, flat-screen Panasonic television. His fist mark is still visible in the now-darkened screen.
He continued in the direction of Forever 21 and Nordstrom.
At HD Home Solutions toward the west end of the mall’s main corridor, the man punched out a 55-inch Sony Bravia flat screen worth $3,200, according to an employee.
A fist mark is clearly visible at the bottom center of the screen and when turned on, the television is black on the left and right sides with blue and purple horizontal lines down the middle. Near the top, there’s a radiating star that looks like a cracking windshield after a rock chip.
“Somebody yelled, ‘Gun,’ and everybody started running,” said Michael Escalante, who works at HD Home Solutions.
Millar said Victoria’s Secret – which is next door to Macy’s – locked down when the commotion began.
“They shut the gate and kept us in there” for about five or 10 minutes, Millar said. “When they figured out it wasn’t gunshots, they let us out.”
Other stores at the mall shut their gates and kept customers inside for a while, too.
Shari Baker of Hawaii and grandson Nate Howard, 13, of Federal Way heard loud noises as the man trashed displays.
“We heard things crashing, and then we heard it a couple more times, and we started thinking it was gunfire,” Baker said.
“We hightailed it,” Howard said. “I thought it was a random shooting. People were running and screaming. They were sprinting,” he said of frightened Sunday shoppers.
“We all started freaking out,” Baker said.
They went into The Limited, a store near the HD Home Solutions display, and “got locked down,” Baker said.
A store employee took customers into a women’s dressing room and locked them in, she said.
Cell phone video shows gates down at several storefronts in the mall, including Gene Juarez Salon & Spa, Nordstrom and Orange Leaf Yogurt.
Mall security guards trailed the man, apparently calling for backup, as he yelled and punched his way down the mall, witnesses said.
A woman who answered the telephone Sunday at Simon Malls said no one was available to comment on the incident or security procedures.
As the man tried to leave the mall through the doors near the Old Navy store, a shopper jumped on top of him, wrestled him to the ground and held him down until he could be restrained with a pair of security guard’s handcuffs, Escalante said.
Escalante said he was one of the men who held the guy down between the inner and outer doors until police arrived.
The man in Sunday’s incident is in his 20s and was arrested on various charges, police said.