A 19 year old man was injured during a shooting inside the East Towne Mall in Madison, Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon. The shopping mall was closed for several hours following the shooting incident. There are no suspects in custody.
A Madison Police spokesperson said several young men were involved in a disturbance in the middle of the mall Saturday afternoon when one pulled out a handgun and fired at least one round. A bullet struck a 19-year-old man who was part of the initial dispute and he was transported to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Violent incidents at U.S. shopping malls have become the norm. In October, three people were injured in a shooting inside the Washington Square Mall in Indianapolis, Indiana when a dispute turned violent and gunfire also struck bystanders, a police commander said. A few days prior to the Indianapolis mall shooting, a police officer was killed when responding to a call about a suspicious person at the Richland Mall in Forrest Acres, South Carolina.
In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks in November, U.S. federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are working with businesses enhance security at “soft targets” across the nation, including shopping malls, stadiums and restaurants. In recent years, large shopping malls have hosted mock terrorist attacks to test and improve multi-agency response efforts and skills of first responders should the “unthinkable” occur. The FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have partnered with local police, fire and emergency medical services for the drills. In a statement issued by mall giant, Simon Property Group in November, a spokeswoman said it “has a detailed security plan in place for the holidays, which we will continually evaluate and modify as needed” and “is regularly in communication with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano announced the agency’s “If You See Something, Say Something” public awareness campaign at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. Since then, the “If You See Something, Say Something” public awareness campaign has been extended to much of the nation’s shopping venues. Soft targets are attractive to terrorists because of lack of security and opportunity to harm a large number of people that gather in enclosed space. Mega malls such as the Mall of America provide a snapshot of everything American, and what Islamic Extremists consider sinful and immoral.
In February, 2015, the United States Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Jeh Johnson said intelligence indicating terrorists are targeting American shopping malls, including the Mall of America in Minnesota are being taken very seriously and urged shoppers to be careful. The Homeland Security Chief’s warning, which specifically named the Mall of America was the first of its kind in U.S. history. Public safety at privately owned public space, including everything from shopping malls and sports arenas to nuclear power plants has been a challenge. Because eighty-five percent of the nation’s critical infrastructure is privately owned, the role of government in securing the American public at “soft targets” such as shopping malls and sports arenas is limited to suggestions and incentives.