WOODBRIDGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — An accused shoplifter was shot and killed by police after allegedly taking a shopper hostage at knife point at the Woodbridge Center Mall in New Jersey late Thursday afternoon.
The Middlesex Prosecutor’s Office said the suspect wouldn’t let the hostage go. He was then was shot and killed by a uniformed police officer, working an extra-duty job at the mall, 1010 WINS’ Eileen Lehpamer reported.
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The young woman who was held hostage was not injured in the incident, according to witnesses. The suspect may have been trying to steal pants from a Hollister store, witnesses said. The suspect ran away toward Sears, where he allegedly held the female hostage with a large kitchen knife to her neck and where he was eventually shot around 5:30 p.m.
The Sears store was shut down just before 6 p.m.
“All of a sudden, they shut down the gates at Sears. We took off running cause we knew something happened. My sister-in-law called to say ‘Get out of the mall, there was a shooting,’” Colleen Veder told CBS 2′s Derricke Dennis.
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“The guy got away and was running with the knife, and then not even a minute later, you heard a shot and then everybody screaming, everybody just starts running,” another witness said.
“We found everybody saying ‘Do not go in the mall…something crazy’s going on in the mall, don’t go in the mall,’” witness and Woodbridge resident Tyler Bruno said.
An employee at F.Y.E. told 1010 WINS that she saw a man running away from police and mall security and said she heard “a bunch of commotion.”
“The guy got away from the people that were wrestling him down and he ran past — he had a knife in his hand. When he ran past the store, he ran down toward Sears and…I couldn’t see anything else after that,” she said.
Another witness, an employee at ECKO Enterprises, told 1010 WINS people in the mall didn’t know what was going on at the time, until they heard gunshots.
“Once you heard the gunshots, you heard everyone scream and running. I was just trying to get people into my store and telling other stores to close up their shops,” he said.
Police have not released the identity of the suspected shoplifter, but witnesses described him as being in his later 20s or early 30s.
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