Six dead — including gunman — at Trolley Square shooting

Published: Friday, Feb. 16 2007 9:59 p.m. MST

A Salt Lake City Police officer squats with his gun drawn next to a body inside the Trolley Square Mall Monday night. Six people, including the gunman, died from the shooting.

Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News

Enlarge photo»

A man with a shotgun ran into Trolley Square and fired multiple shots, killing five people and hitting multiple other victims before he was killed Monday night, police said.

Salt Lake City Police Detective Robin Snyder confirmed the shooter was dead. She said there was only one gunman on the premises and that there were "multiple victims," with at least six fatalities, including the shooter. Several people were in critical condition at area hospitals.

Snyder said significant manpower was necessary to clear out the entire mall, which she said was difficult because of the intricate and old-fashioned design of the building.

Nearly three hours after the mayhem began, Snyder said police were still getting phone calls from people who were hiding in closets and fitting rooms inside the mall.

"There's a lot of scared people inside who want to get out," she said.

Numerous police and fire officials responded to the mall, at 700 E. 500 South, just after 6:45 p.m., hunting a male reported to be "actively shooting" inside the mall, according to Salt Lake City police dispatchers.

Witnesses heard several loud "pops" and "bangs" and ran for cover in stores, bathrooms, hallways and in a restaurant's freezer.

Brad Merrill was waiting with his son outside of the Spaghetti Factory when a shooter ran up the stairs and "blew the doors and windows off."

"He didn't say anything, he just shot in the door," Merrill said. Merrill ran inside the restaurant and yelled, "There's a guy with a gun!" Several people inside called 911.

Merrill's wife and other young children were inside another store at the time, and they were separated for over a half-hour. All of them were "pretty shaken up," he said.

At least two victims were taken to University Hospital in critical condition, and several others were being treated at the scene. Shoppers and employees at the mall were evacuated from the area as officials attended to the various injured and frightened people there, according to Salt Lake City Fire Assistant Battalion Chief Dennis McKone.

An off-duty Ogden police officer was in the mall at the time and fired his weapon at the shooter, killing him, according to Barrett Dodds, an antique-shop owner who witnessed the event.

Ogden Police Sgt. Blaine Clifford confirmed there was an off-duty police officer involved in the mall shooting. "I don't know what level of involvement he had."

Dodds said the shooter was about 6 feet tall, wearing a long trench coat and a backpack, and that he stopped to reload his weapon several times while inside the mall. Dodds said he heard as many as 20 shots fired, and he believed the man was "putting the gun to his shoulder and aiming at people."

LDS Hospital officials did not allow media inside the hospital emergency-room area. Intermountain HealthCare spokesman David Midget said the hospital was treating two patients, one in critical condition, the other in serious condition.

Of the two shooting victims taken to University Hospital, a 50-year-old man was undergoing surgery and was in critical condition, said hospital spokesman Chris Nelson. He said a 16-year-old was being evaluated in radiology. Extra security officers were on duty at the hospital, and the incident prompted an emergency room lock-down, as a precaution, he said.

Nelson said the families were still in shock.

Emergency personnel out- side Trolley Square were handing out blankets Monday night, as well as escorting several groups to safety, attempting to evacuate the entire location. The entire four-block radius around the mall was being treated as a crime scene, Snyder said.

Doug Irey, manager of the Pottery Barn at Trolley Square, said in a telephone interview that several customers were taking refuge inside his store while they were awaiting information from police.

"Everyone here is on the phone with loved ones, letting them know we're all OK. The SWAT team's just outside," he said. Irey said he saw people running around in the mall, but he didn't know exactly what was going on.

"Police advised us to find a safe location, and that was the last we heard," he said.

Irey said he was not immediately able to contact anyone at the nearby Pottery Barn Kids store, where it is believed the gunman may have fired several shots. He said regional store safety and security managers were in contact with employees who were in those stores at the time.

Cedric Wilson was working at the Rodizio Grill when he heard noise and went out to see what the commotion was. He said he saw a man point a gun at him and fire. The shotgun blast grazed his head, taking out a small clump of hair.

"It really didn't hurt that bad," Wilson said.

Two teenage girls heard the shots ringing out while they were inside the Desert Edge Brewery. After hearing one "really loud bang, people scattered everywhere," said Vera Bendixen. She and her friend, Tricia Temple, heard lots of rapid-fire shots and they ran into the pub's restroom, where they hid until employees told them everyone needed to get out.

Upon leaving the brewery, the girls said they passed two bodies lying on the floor on the second floor of the mall.

The incident, including a motive, remains under investigation. Multiple agencies were on scene most of the night, most of them armed. The entire area was secured and all businesses were closed Monday night.

Police were asking anyone with information about the situation inside the building during the incident to call them. Police were also urging people traumatized by the events but who weren't able to speak with police or fire personnel before leaving the scene to call Valley Mental Health at 801-261-1442.


Contributing: Deborah Bulkeley, Zack Van Eyck

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com; bwinslow@desnews.com; preavy@desnews.com

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