AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana
Police move in from a parking lot to the Mall in Columbia after reports of a multiple shooting, Saturday Jan. 25, 2014 Howard County, Md. Three people died, including the person believed to be the shooter, police said. The shooting took place at the Mall in Columbia, a suburb of both Baltimore and Washington, according to Howard County police. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) The Associated Press
Police in Maryland say three people died Saturday in a shooting at a mall in suburban Baltimore, including the presumed gunman.
Howard County police said via Twitter that a shooting took place at the Mall in Columbia, a suburb of both Baltimore and Washington.
"All the activities took place at one time in one store," said Howard County Police Chief Bill McMahon at a news conference early Saturday afternoon.
"We are still trying to secure the mall to make sure no one else is injured and we are going to get our investigators into the scene."
McMahon said no motive is known yet, and he would not divulge the ages or genders of the dead .McMahon said the shooting occurred at a store on the upper floor but it wasn't clear whether the shooting was random or whether the shooter and victims knew each other.
He did indicate that specially-trained members of the SWAT happened to be nearby on a different matter and managed to get to the mall quickly.
Authorities received a call to the police emergency dispatcher at around 11:15 a.m. local time from someone reporting that shots had been fired. Police responded to the scene and found three people dead, including one person who was found near a gun and ammunition.
Police said they believed that one of the people found dead was the shooter. There was no other information available about the two other people.
The scene was "believed to be secure" police said in a tweet released at about 12:36 p.m. local time.
Gunshots, people running
The mall, which is at the centre of the town, typically opens at 10 a.m. on Saturdays and it was not known how many shoppers or workers might have been present at the time of the shooting.
Witnesses described moments of panic as they heard a succession of gunshots and screaming as people ran for cover into nearby stores and hid behind locked doors.
Joan Harding of Elkridge, Maryland, was shopping with her husband, David, for a tiara for their granddaughter's 18th birthday. She said she heard something heavy falling, followed by gunshots and people running.
"My husband said, `Get down!' and the girl that worked in the store said, `Get in the back,' " Harding said. That is where they hid until police gave the all-clear..
People were directed out of the mall and into a parking lot, where some boarded a bus and others walked toward their cars. Some people were seen crying. McMahon said detectives were interviewing witnesses as they emerged from the mall to try to get a better picture of the events that had unfolded.
Laura McKinzles of Columbia works at a kiosk in the mall. She said she heard between eight and 10 gunshots, followed by people running and screaming. She ran into the backroom of a perfume store and locked the door.
Allison Cohen, who works at the apparel store "Lucky Brand Jeans," said she always felt safe at the mall.
"I truly never thought something like this would ever happen here. It's really, really shocking," Cohen said.