A man was critically injured Saturday afternoon in a shooting at a shopping mall in Braintree, Massachusetts, and the suspect is still on the loose, police said.
State and local police responded to a call of shots fired with a person down at South Shore Plaza around 3 p.m., Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey said during a second press conference Saturday night.
Emergency personnel found the victim -- identified only as a 26-year-old Boston resident -- on the ground with at least one apparent gunshot wound. He was taken to a Boston hospital with life-threatening injuries, police said.
It wasn't immediately clear how many times he was shot. He is in "serious, very grave condition," Morrissey said. His name is not being released at this time.
Authorities have not made any arrests in the shooting.
According to Braintree Deputy Chief Tim Cohoon, there was an "encounter" between two men inside a store on the first floor of the mall. The suspect allegedly approached the victim, pulled out a firearm and shot the man.
Police believe the suspect immediately fled the mall, and the search for him is ongoing. Morrissey said authorities do not know at this time if there is more than one suspect.
"They're still trying to sort that out," the DA said.
Morrissey would would not go into specifics of exactly where the shooting occurred but did say it was inside a store that is fairly close to one of the mall's parking garages. He also noted it's a big place with easy access to the highway.
Police said it appears this was a targeted shooting, not a random event, and wanted to assure the public there was no danger to the community at large.
"We don't believe there's any further danger to the surrounding neighborhoods," Cohoon said during the first press conference that officials held at 5 p.m.
During a second press conference later Saturday, the district attorney confirmed there was not an ongoing threat.
Around 6:40 p.m., state police said the mall was cleared and the scene secured. They also said the investigation into the shooting is continuing in an effort to identify and locate the suspect or suspects.
There was a swift response to the shooting Saturday, with police noting that Braintree officers were already on site when it occurred. They were quickly joined by other units, police said, and civilian EMTs who were firefighters helped render first aid to the victim until more first responders arrived.
Authorities from surrounding communities were called to the scene to assist with the response. People were asked to avoid the area, and the mall immediately went into lockdown; that has since been lifted.
The mall was evacuated, and those who had been sheltering in place inside were told it was safe to come outside.
Shoppers who were inside the plaza when the shooting took place recalled the panic they felt as they raced to get outside.
“People started screaming out of the building, yelling there was an active shooter,” one man told NBC10 Boston.
“I didn’t think I would ever experience something like this,” a woman added.
Some shoppers who couldn't get out quickly enough hid in a storage room, as dozens of police officers armed with assault rifles swarmed the area near Nordstrom and Target.
“The next thing I know, I hear the cops saying, ‘Get out of the way! Everyone, run!’” a man named Wendell told NBC10 Boston.
“I kind of immediately went into panic and then the sirens started to sound,” another woman recalled.
Anyone who was at the mall or in the area between 3 - 3:30 p.m. that saw anything out of the ordinary is asked to contact state and local detectives -- particularly if they were near the section where the shooting occurred, or in the nearby parking garage.
Even if you think it was small, Morrissey said authorities still want to hear from you if you saw anything, or heard anything -- such as a speeding car.
South Shore Plaza remained close for the remainder of Saturday, and it was not immediately clear if it would reopen Sunday.
The DA said the plaza will remain closed until authorities finish processing the scene, noting there is a large area that needs to be processed.
Braintree Mayor Charles Kokoros also spoke at Saturday's press conferences and appeared frustrated by the latest shooting incident at the mall.
"I will say that this is unacceptable," Kokoros said. "And that we will be working directly with the South Shore Plaza, Simon Properties to come up with solutions to these problems."
"It's a place that people should be able to go and shop safely and we should not have gunshots being fired while people are out shopping and enjoying a Saturday," the mayor added.
Kokoros commended Braintree officers as well as police from surrounding communities for responding so quickly and professionally to the chaotic scene.
"Once again, I just want to thank all of our law enforcement... This is not the first incident that we've had at the mall, the last being July 3, 2020," he said. "I commend the actions of all of our brave men and women at the police department and the SWAT teams that came here on a moments notice, as well as fire departments and Brewster Ambulance."
The mayor said Saturday's shooting is one too many, again reiterating that they want to make sure everyone feels safe when they go shopping.
Kokoros said city and police officials will likely meet next week with the mall's property owners to discuss these issues, noting it's time for them to "step up and put a plan together."
"This is unacceptable," he added. "I've lived here my whole life. As mayor, it's very frustrating to have incidents like this occur while people are out shopping on a Saturday. It has to stop."
Braintree Police Chief Mark Dubois said mall security will be reevaluated following this incident, noting that Braintree officers are assigned to the plaza seven days a week.
"It is a concern obviously that we've had several incidents down here," Dubois said.
NBC10 Boston reached out to South Shore Plaza for comment, and a spokesman said all inquiries should be directed to the Braintree Police Department.
The Braintree police chief said this is an extremely active investigation and they have a tremendous amount of resources dedicated to this incident from state police and the Braintree Police Department.
Detectives are following several leads at this time, police said. Anyone with information is asked to call Braintree police at (781) 794-8620.
The ongoing investigation is being led by the state police detective unit for Norfolk County and Braintree police.