Two Dead, Two Wounded During Robbery Attempt at Deptford Mall
DEPTFORD, N.J. (AP) _ A would-be robber and an armored car guard traded gunfire inside a shopping mall Monday, killing a man who had come to cash a check and critically wounding a girl.
The guard, who had just picked up money from a PNC Bank branch on the second floor of the Deptford Mall, emptied his 9mm revolver and killed the gunman despite being critically wounded himself.
Shoppers ran screaming for the exits and took cover inside stores as more than 20 bullets flew inside a mall atrium. Police believe one of those bullets ricocheted before hitting the girl in the head.
``People were shopping as usual. Then out of blue I heard what sounded like firecrackers,″ said Peter Frantzen, 28, who was about eight stores away.
``There were three _ boom boom boom _ then a pause then another three. I stuck my head out of the store and saw people running toward the (opposite) end of the mall.″
A stolen maroon Honda, believed to be a getaway car, was recovered on a road next to the mall, with a weapon inside, and authorities said late Monday night that they were searching for at least two more suspects.
One eyewitness told The Associated Press that 15 minutes after the shootout, a man was running through the mall waving a gun behind him. Others told police they saw one or two men flee in a red car.
Police SWAT teams searched the mall until 8 p.m. for anyone hiding inside, but came up empty. Two men were questioned and released, and are not suspects, said Gloucester County Prosecutor Harris Y. Cotton.
FBI spokeswoman Linda Vizi said a bag of money was found near the dead gunman; she did not know how much. The guard’s 9mm pistol was found emptied, and the robber’s semiautomatic gun also was recovered.
Vizi said the guard, Rudolph Matlack, 21, of Williamstown, had made a pickup at the PNC Bank branch and encountered the gunman in a hallway outside the bank. The two exchanged shots and the robber was killed, along with Nicholas Morris, 17, of Clayton, who had come to cash a check.
Officials said Morris was hit by a bullet from the robber’s gun.
``He was strictly an innocent bystander,″ Cotton said.
Lavin was going up the steps from the mall’s lower level to the second floor when she was hit, possibly by a ricocheting bullet. It wasn’t clear which gun that bullet came from.
After Matlack staggered back inside the bank, a bank employee quickly locked the doors so the gunman could not get inside, Cotton said.
The guard and the wounded girl, Maureen Lavin, 15, of Swedesboro, were airlifted to Cooper Hospital-Medical Center in nearby Camden, where both were listed in critical condition Monday night, said a nursing supervisor.
A second Brooks guard was treated for hypertension and shock and released from an area hospital, Cotton said. He did not release his name.
At Brooks Armored Car Service Inc. headquarters in Wilmington, Del., officials were trying to learn details and had no immediate comment, said receptionist Kathy Guzzo.
Store owners at the mall about 10 miles south of Philadelphia, which is one of the biggest in southern New Jersey, locked their customers in for about 10 minutes after the gunfire.
``It sounded like firecrackers, we didn’t think it was real,″ said Judy DiCarlo, of Woodbury, who was inside a jewelry store shopping with her four children. She then saw several people running and screaming.
Michael Orsino, 33, of Franklinville was standing at an ice cream counter on the lower level when a crowd of people running for the exits.
``Everybody started running,″ he said. Orsino, who was with his wife and 5 1/2-year old son, said they began running too.