CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - An armed man was shot and killed by an off-duty officer at Northlake Mall on Christmas Eve, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police.
As last-minute shoppers were picking out their final gifts, witnesses say they heard several shots fired around 2:10 p.m. Thursday coming from the lower-level of the mall. The suspect, later identified as 18-year-old Daquan Antonio Westbrook, was shot near the entrance of the Journey's shoe store. That's in the Dick's Sporting Goods side of the mall.
CMPD says Thomas Ferguson, an off-duty officer, arrived on scene after hearing shots fired inside the mall. Witnesses tell WBTV the shooting was in retaliation to a shooting that happened last week involving the deceased suspect's brother.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said in a Thursday evening news conference, the suspect pointed a gun in the direction of of the officer before being shot.
James Elliott saw the incident unfold.
"Five guys started fighting, two of them ran out of the store when the third guy came out of the store he pulled out a gun," Elliott said. "Officer stepped up, said put your gun down, he turned around and opened fire."
Westbrook was pronounced dead by Medic.
In reference to the argument, Putney says there was an ongoing dispute between the groups. However, there is no indication that this incident was gang related. He said multiple weapons were found at the scene.
It was a chaotic scene in Northlake Mall. Witnesses describe shoppers running out of stores screaming.
Emmanuel Daniels was in Journey's when the shooting happened.
"I heard 'get on the ground, stop, stop, move, move' and my Dad taught me to run," Daniels said. "I started light jogging then I heard boom boom boom boom and I said, 'Oh my gosh'."
"There were kids running and I am like where are your parents so I started pushing them inside the stores where I was running. I was trying to get to Dillards to run out the mall," Daniels recalls.
Leah Lowery was near the Icing store on her way to Starbuck when she heard the gunshots. She said it was so loud and close, her ears were ringing.
According to a source, four people were taken to area hospitals with minor injuries. No officers were injured.
Traffic appeared to be in a gridlock as people tried to leave the mall area and ramps from I-77 to Northlake were shut down in both directions.
The mall has since been evacuated and is closed.
Per standard procedure in an officer involved shooting, Officer Ferguson is on paid administrative leave while the department investigates. Ferguson has been with the department since 1996.
Putney says the large amount of witnesses who came forward to give their statements helps the investigation. However, if you have any information about the case, you are asked to call 704-432-TIPS and speak directly to a Homicide Unit Detective. You can also call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600 or visit the Crime Stoppers website.