NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — One 22-year-old man ended a fight with another by fatally shooting him inside a Tennessee mall on Thursday, and then gave up his weapon and surrendered, saying he didn’t want any more trouble, police said.
Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron said the shooter put the gun on the counter of a ticket booth across from the Opry Mills Mall, and then was ordered to lie on the ground by a retired California police officer who now lives in Tennessee.
The victim has been identified by police as Demarco Churchwell, who is also 22. The suspected shooter has been identified as (backslash)Justin Golson, police said. It is not clear if Golson will face charges or if he has a lawyer. He was in police custody and being interviewed by investigators Thursday evening.
The gunfire prompted an outsized response. The mall was evacuated, police officers responded in force, 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 for a time.
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.