CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Gunfire erupted during a dispute between a former gym employee and a manager Saturday, leaving one person dead and two others seriously wounded at an upscale shopping mall, police said.
The shooting at the Equinox gym shuttered the Shops at Merrick Park for the day while investigators talked to witnesses and pieced together what happened. Police did not say who opened fire, or who was wounded and who was killed.
The wounded were airlifted to the Ryder Trauma Center. There was no immediate word on their conditions.
“It appears to be an ex-employee, managerial dispute that triggered this shooting,” Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta said.
The mall is within a couple miles of the University of Miami campus. Former Miami baseball standout Javy Rodriguez said he was inside the gym when the shots started, writing on Facebook that he ran to safety.
“Equinox workers did an amazing job of calmly … getting the rest out of there,” Rodriguez said.
A Coral Gables police officer patrolling the mall was told by a security officer shortly before 1 p.m. that shots had been fired, said chief Ed Hudak. A mall security system was activated and people in other stores and restaurants were told to remain inside or escorted to safety.
“The system worked exactly as it should have,” Hudak said.
At Yard House, a restaurant inside the mall, many patrons were outside dining or waiting for their lunches when police told restaurant employees to get everyone inside.
“So that’s exactly what we did,” said Tim Hartog, the restaurant’s general manager. “It was never chaotic. We’re trained to do these things.”
Hartog said employees were allowed to clean and shut down the restaurant for the day, and were told to go home afterward. He said the mall was closed until Sunday.
More than a dozen police cars and firetrucks were outside the mall for hours after the shooting. Employees of other stores and restaurants were seen leaving about an hour after the shooting, once the scene was secure.
Equinox said in a statement that is was working with authorities.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families impacted by this terrible tragedy. Out of respect for them and our entire Equinox family, we will refrain from commenting further until it is appropriate to do so,” the statement said.