Their faces were filled with terror. It was another shooting, another gunman opening fire in a crowded place.
Twenty-four hours and thousands of miles from the Connecticut school shooting, shoppers at Newport Beach's Fashion Island escaped tragedy Saturday when police quickly subdued a gunman who fired 50 shots in the parking lot outside Macy’s.
No one was injured, and police arrested Garden Grove resident Marcos Sarinana Gurrola, 42, on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, said Kathy Lowe, a spokeswoman for the Newport Beach Police Department. Shoppers hid in dressing rooms, ducked down inside a movie theater and made a run for their cars, not knowing if the gunman intended to open fire on the crowd and with Friday’s Connecticut school shooting still raw for many people.
Newport Beach police received multiple calls of gunfire at 4:35 p.m. in the east side of the lot outside the Macy’s, at San Miguel and Newport Center drives, said Lowe. Bicycle officers who patrol the area arrived quickly and took the gunman into custody without incident, Lowe said.
“A male was shooting a weapon in the air and at the ground,” Lowe said. "The suspect was standing next to his vehicle at the time of the arrest and advised officers there was additional ammunition located in the trunk of his vehicle. As a precautionary measure, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department bomb squad was called in to remove the ammunition from the vehicle."
There were no injuries or property damage from the shots, but one person suffered minor injuries trying to get away from the area on foot, she said. Officers combed the area to make sure no one was injured or killed by the errant gunfire, added Lowe.
"It was an isolated incident," she said. "We don't have a motive at this time."
The investigation is ongoing, but police have no reason to believe there was anyone else involved, nor is there any indication the shooter intended to open fire inside the shopping center, said Lowe.
The mall was crowded with shoppers when the shots rang out.
According to witnesses, shoppers ran screaming into and out of the mall. A pair of women who saw the shooting ran into the nearby Macy’s, shouting to lock the doors and run for cover. Within three minutes, the mall level of the crowded store was empty, said one witness.
The crowd ran out an opposite exit past a Victoria’s Secret and Forever 21 and into a nearby Nordstrom.
Deena Nassef of Orange and Hanaa Escatel were walking into Macy’s with Escatel's 11-year-old son, Robert, as panicked shoppers spilled out screaming. The pair led the rush into Nordstrom.
“Everyone started to run out of the store and followed us to Nordstrom,” Nassef said. “Even as we were running, people were laughing at us. Everyone thought it might be a joke or a hoax.”
Once inside Nordstrom, the scene was chaotic.
“People were being trampled and pushed. Imagine 150 people trying to get through a door,” said Escatel. “Makeup brushes were flying everywhere.”
Store employees locked the doors and ushered the shoppers into the dressing rooms for refuge, said Nassef and Escatel.
“People were trying on clothes while we were waiting,” said Nassef. “People where trying to make the best of a bad situation.”
One wheelchair-bound shopper was celebrating her 100th birthday. Store employees handed out cookies and water, and the nervous shoppers sang Happy Birthday.
Patch reporter Tiffany Carter, who was at Macy’s when the shots were fired, said some shoppers hid in the movie theater, and police were patrolling the mall with guns drawn.
As rumors raced through the shopping center, many wondered if their friends and co-workers had been shot. Store employees conducted headcounts of their staffs, uncertain about the fate of employees who were under lockdown in neighboring boutiques.
The alleged gunman was captured within minutes of the shooting, and it didn’t take long for a semblance of normalcy to return to the shopping center. Macy’s reopened in less than two hours. By 9:15 p.m., Christmas carolers strolled through the outdoor mall.
See witness video from the shooting to the right.
-City News Service contributed to this report.