A 15-year-old who was shot in the upper chest during a shooting at the Danbury Fair Mall Wednesday night is in stable condition, according to police, and they are looking for the person who shot her.
The shooting happened during an altercation between two groups, according to police. One person fired a shot and struck the teen.
Police initially said they believed she was an innocent bystander caught up in an altercation between two groups.
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Danbury Police Chief Patrick Ridenhour said at a press conference Wednesday night that officers were called to the Danbury Fair Mall in the area of Macy's around 7 p.m. for a report of shots fired. The female victim was shot in the chest and was alert and conscious when emergency crews arrived. She was taken to Danbury Hospital and transferred to Connecticut Children's late Wednesday night and she is in stable condition.
Ridenhour said investigators have secured video that showed an altercation involving at least eight people inside the mall just outside the entrance to Macy's. According to Ridenhour, one person pulled a gun and fired one round, hitting the victim. He was described as a thin male and appeared to be in his early teens.
Police said they are confident that he will be identified and urge him to turn himself in.
Police said Wednesday that they were looking into reports of a male carrying a hammer seen running from the scene, and say he may have been the target, but that is still under investigation.
“It appears she was innocent. It appears there was another target. We do have some information that a male was running from the scene carrying a hammer. We believe he may have been the target but she got in the way," Ridenhour said Wednesday.
The mall was placed on lockdown during the incident and while police confirmed the suspects had left the area. Ridenhour said this appears to be an isolated incident and the video footage shows all the people involved leaving the mall. No other injuries were reported.
People who were in the mall described a frightening scene.
“I just heard a loud pow, a loud bang,” Tyreef Mahboob, of Danbury, said. “As I'm running out, there's a young girl next to me. I would say she's about 16, 17. She was crying hysterically saying her friend just got shot.”
People who work in the mall said they locked their stores down and one woman was in a fitting room at the time.
Nine people got into a closet and locked the door.
The mall opened at its normal hours Thursday, but for those working or shopping there at the time of the shooting the reality of last night’s incidents inside the mall really started to sink in.
“The first thing that went through my head, it was, ‘I am about to be in a mass shooting,’ and I immediately freaked out,” said Matt Alexandre, who works at a kiosk just a stone’s throw away from the shooting. “The gun shot sounded like it was right next to me because Macy’s is only feet down from me.”
He said, “I turn around and I see everyone running, so you know, survival instincts kicks..”
“I look at my 14-year-old daughter and I said, ‘Francesca come here. Grab my hand and don’t let go no matter what you do,” said Christopher Buccieri of Newtown.
A spur of the moment trip to a sporting goods store at the mall had him running to get his daughter out of harm’s way when he saw hundreds of people headed his way.
“I lived through 9/11. I was down at the towers when that happened. I lost a friend who was a firefighter. We move up to Newtown and Sandy Hook happens. It’s just, when’s it going to end? I mean when is this crap going to end? It just gets to me.”
Connecticut State Police and several other local departments responded to assist Danbury police. Local, state and federal partners are all assisting with the investigation, which is ongoing.
Anyone with information that can assist with the investigation is urged to contact lead investigator, Detective Carroccio at P.Carroccio@Danbury-CT.gov, the Detective Bureau at 203-797-4662, or the Confidential TIPS line at 203-790-8477.
Editor's note: Police originally said the teen is 16 years old, but later said she is 15. They also said they believed she was an innocent bystander caught up in an altercation between two groups. On Thursday, police said she was with one of the groups.