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Gun-related incidents prompt lockdowns at Edmonton malls

Edmonton police say a man reportedly shot a person and carjacked a vehicle in the parking lot outside Kingsway Mall on Dec. 5. (Sandra Batson/CBC - image credit)
Edmonton police say a man reportedly shot a person and carjacked a vehicle in the parking lot outside Kingsway Mall on Dec. 5. (Sandra Batson/CBC - image credit)

Gun-related incidents have resulted in lockdowns at two Edmonton malls, just days apart.

On Tuesday night, a shooting in the parking lot outside Kingsway Mall left one person injured, Edmonton police said.

Police say a man reportedly attempted to rob a woman who was able to escape. He then approached a man who was unlocking his bike and shot him. The alleged shooter then carjacked a vehicle before driving into a nearby building.

Police say the shooter was taken into custody, and a firearm was found inside the vehicle. He is now facing more than 20 criminal charges including robbery with a firearm, aggravated assault and dangerous driving.

The parking lot incident caused a mall-wide lockdown. A Kingsway Mall spokesperson says stores were immediately instructed to lock their doors.

"Edmonton Police Service was on site within one minute of being contacted," said the statement to CBC News.

Days before, Edmonton police responded to a weapons complaint at West Edmonton Mall. The mall was placed under lockdown in the afternoon of Dec. 2 and police say a male suspect was located and taken into custody. No shots were fired and no one was injured in that incident.

Officers at the scene of Monday's shooting at West Edmonton Mall. Police say three people were seriously injured.
Officers at the scene of Monday's shooting at West Edmonton Mall. Police say three people were seriously injured.

Officers at the scene of a shooting at West Edmonton Mall earlier this summer where police said three people were seriously injured. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Tammy Robinson says she was on the far west side of West Edmonton Mall when the lockdown was put in place. She says she heard a faint alarm that sounded like it was coming from a distance away, and was similar sounding to an anti-theft alarm in store entrances.

"When you're sitting in that area of the mall, you actually cannot hear the alarms or what's being broadcasted over the intercom," Robinson said.

"We had no idea there was a lockdown going on. We had no idea of the instructions to follow in the event of a lockdown."

Robinson and her husband ended up taking shelter at a nearby phone repair store. But, she says it wasn't until they checked social media to find out there were police in the mall looking for a man with a gun.

"It's disappointing to be in an emergency situation in a place like West Edmonton Mall and not have adequate systems in place to help protect the people," Robinson said.

Previous lockdown

West Edmonton Mall has not yet responded to a request for comment on security protocols.

The mall, one of the largest in North America and a major tourist attraction, says on its website that it staffs more than 40 highly-trained personnel and conducts lockdown drills four times a year to prepare for emergencies.

In August, a shooting in the parking lot on the west side of the mall  injured three people and triggered an hours-long lockdown.

Heather Thomson, executive director at the centre for cities and communities at the University of Alberta, says public security incidents can scare people away from malls.

"They're going to want to limit their time in the mall or avoid them all completely. And that's really unfortunate this time of year because this is the time of year that retailers need the foot traffic," said Thomson.

'We need help'

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi says the city needs help from other levels of government to combat escalating gun violence.

"We need help from other orders of government to deal with escalation in gang violence and gun violence and the deterioration of the social infrastructure that we have seen in our communities where people are really struggling with mental health issues or addiction issues," Sohi said.

Edmonton mayor Amarjeet Sohi says there needs to be a crackdown on gun and gang violence in the city.
Edmonton mayor Amarjeet Sohi says there needs to be a crackdown on gun and gang violence in the city.

Edmonton mayor Amarjeet Sohi says there needs to be a crackdown on gun and gang violence in the city. (Christopher Mihailides/CBC)

"We need interventions. We need stronger gun laws. We need to get tough on organized crime, on drug dealing. We also need to invest in the social infrastructure that allows people to get better, heal and integrate back into the community."

Mike Ellis, Alberta's Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services, says an announcement to combat gun violence in Edmonton is to come.

"I think you're seeing the brazenness or organized crime where they have no problem doing a shooting during the day. They have no problem doing a shooting in the middle of a parking lot," Ellis said during a news conference on Wednesday.

"Why is that? Because what are the consequences right now? They're insufficient. I'll leave it at that."