A gunman has shot dead eight people and wounded at least seven others at a busy shopping mall north of the city of Dallas in the United States, according to police.
The assailant, who authorities believe acted alone, was fatally shot by a police officer on Saturday after he began firing outside the Allen Premium Outlets mall in Allen, a suburb north of Dallas in the state of Texas, the police said on Sunday.
“He heard gunshots, went to the gunshots, engaged the suspect and neutralised the suspect,” Brian Harvey, the police chief of Allen, a community of about 100,000 people, said at a news conference earlier on Saturday.
“He also then called for ambulances,” he said.
A 16-year-old pretzel stand employee, Maxwell Gum, described a virtual stampede of shoppers. He and others sheltered in a storage room.
“We started running. Kids were getting trampled,” Gum said. “My co-worker picked up a four-year-old girl and gave her to her parents.”
Dashcam video circulating online showed the gunman getting out of a car and shooting at people on the sidewalk. More than three dozen shots could be heard as the vehicle that was recording the video drove off.
Allen fire department chief Jon Boyd said his department took at least nine victims with gunshot wounds to area hospitals.
Two of those people died at the hospital, Boyd said at a second news conference on Saturday night.
Three of the victims were in critical condition, and four others were stable, he added.
Medical City Healthcare, a Dallas-area hospital system, said in a written statement it was treating eight people between the ages of five and 61.
TV aerial images showed hundreds of people calmly walking out of the mall, located about 40km(25 miles) northeast of Dallas after the violence unfolded, many with their hands up as dozens of police stood guard.
The footage also showed blood on sidewalks outside the mall and white sheets covering what appeared to be bodies.
Fontayne Payton, 35, told The Associated Press news agency that he was at a garment store when he heard the sound of gunshots through the headphones he was wearing.
“It was so loud, it sounded like it was right outside,” Payton said.
People in the store scattered before employees ushered the group into the fitting rooms and then a lockable back room, he said. When they were given the all-clear to leave, Payton saw the store had broken windows and a trail of blood to the door. Discarded sandals and bloodied clothes were laying nearby.
Once outside, Payton saw bodies.
“I pray it wasn’t kids, but it looked like kids,” he said. The bodies were covered in white towels, slumped over bags on the ground, he said.
“It broke me when I walked out to see that,” he said.
Further away, he saw the body of a heavyset man wearing all black. He assumed it was the gunman, Payton said, because, unlike the other bodies, it had not been covered up.
A second unidentified witness told local ABC affiliate WFAA TV that the gunman was “walking down the sidewalk just … shooting his gun outside” and that “he was just shooting his gun everywhere for the most part”.
The shooting in Allen was the latest eruption of what has been an unprecedented pace of mass killings in the US. Barely a week before, authorities say, a man fatally shot five people in Cleveland, Texas, after a neighbour asked him to stop firing his weapon while a baby slept.
The White House said President Joe Biden had been briefed on the shooting and that the administration had offered support to local officials.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, calling the shooting an “unspeakable tragedy”, said in a written statement that the state was also prepared to offer any assistance local authorities may need.
Mass shootings have become commonplace in the US, with at least 198 so far in 2023, the most at this point in the year since at least 2016, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
The non-profit group defines a mass shooting in which four or more people are wounded or killed, not including the gunman.
The US has the highest rate of gun deaths of any developed country, with 49,000 recorded in 2021, up from 45,000 the year before.
SOURCE: Inputs from NEWS AGENCIES