Debbie Baker

Ottawa’s year of the gun: Gunfire at outlet mall marks the city’s 46th shooting of the year — the most in its history

Mike Carroccetto / Postmedia News

Shoppers and security guards roamed the Tanger Outlet Mall on Saturday, one day after the Boxing Day shooting that appears to be the result of infighting between members of the ‘Crips’ gang.

Police remained on the hunt for two suspects in connection with the shooting Friday afternoon. Officers had arrested two men Friday night, but they were later arrested without charge.

What police described as a “targeted” shooting shut down the mall early on the busiest shopping day of the year.

All five men involved in the incident are known to police.

The victim, who was unco-operative with officers, was shot in the foot in a shopping alley of the outdoor mall flanked by Polo Ralph Lauren and Beauty Box. He was released from hospital Saturday afternoon.

Saturday evening, investigators continued to pore over surveillance footage from mall security cameras, and were planning to speak with more witnesses throughout the evening.

Tanger Outlet Mall general manager Eric Topolnisky said Saturday that security at the mall has been increased by by four to five security officers, as well as one vehicle patrol. The increased security presence will be in place through the holiday season, after which time mall management will re-evaluate.

“In response to this particular event, just to make people feel even more secure, we want to make sure to be sensitive to how people feel about it,” he said.

Topolnisky said company policy did not allow him to specify exactly how many officers were on duty, although he did say that the mall normally increases its security presence by two to three officers through the holidays.

Mike Carroccetto / Postmedia NewsOttawa police responded to a Boxing Day shooting at the Tanger Outlets in Ottawa on Friday.

“We have an increased security presence over the holidays anyway just to accommodate an increased volume of people.”

Topolnisky said that the mall was busier than normal on Boxing Day because it is “obviously the biggest retail day of the year for most Canadians in retail.”

“We were definitely dealing with tens of thousands of people throughout the day, not at a specific time but for the day in total,” he said.

Although investigators haven’t identified a motive for the shooting, it appeared to be infighting between Crips gang members.

“They are part of the same gang, so it would appear that there would be some infighting,” said Staff Sgt. Kenneth Bryden of the Ottawa police guns and gangs unit. “That would be the way of street gangs today.”

The shooter only fired one shot from a .40-calibre handgun.

“This was not a random event. This was definitely a targeted shooting. We believe the person who did pull the trigger had an intended target,” said Bryden.

“This has kind of given us an idea of where we’re at today with organized street gangs and crime groups that are conducting their business in a public forum.”

The incident marked the 46th shooting this year in Ottawa, the most in the city’s history. The shooting happened around 3:42 p.m. Friday and sent shoppers running in a panic on Boxing Day afternoon and saw some stores lock their doors and order shoppers away from front windows, as heavily-armed police officers searched for suspects in any car leaving the mall. Police found the casing from a .40-calibre bullet at the scene.

Bryden said the men released Saturday morning remain “persons of interest” who may be brought back in for further questioning. Investigators were continuing to look for two more men involved in the shooting.

Mike Carroccetto / Postmedia News

Mike Carroccetto / Postmedia NewsOttawa police responded to Boxing Day shooting at the Tanger Outlets off Huntmar Rd. in Ottawa on Friday afternoon.

“We still have two persons of interest that have not been spoken to by police that we believe were at that scene or involved in that incident,” Bryden said.

Tanger management decided to close the mall around 6 p.m. “in support of and out of compassion for the employees currently working,” police said in a release. Police blocked off vehicular traffic into the mall, only permitting parents in to pick up their children who had been out bargain hunting.

Tanger management officials could not be reached Saturday for comment about the shooting, or additional security measures taken in the wake of the incident.

On Saturday, the doors to the stores were open, the number of shoppers appeared usual for a Saturday, according to mall workers, and there was no trace that hours earlier the area had been a crime scene.

“I’m pretty determined not to be scared of things,” said shopper Ian Chapman, who had planned to be at the mall Friday afternoon until word of the shooting spread. “We’ve got to carry on and not let these types of things change us and that’s kind of the attitude of have with this.”

Debbie Baker said she was a little nervous to come to work in one of the food trucks outside the mall, but said she couldn’t see a shooting similar to the one on Friday happening again.

“Once I got in my car and got here it was fine,” she said. “I still think this place is safe. I think it was just something isolated and…I’m hoping it never happens again.”

With files from Meghan Hurley and Allison McNeely, Postmedia News