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Two Dead, Two Wounded During Robbery Attempt at Deptford Mall

August 5, 1996

DEPTFORD, N.J. (AP) _ A would-be robber and an armored car guard traded gunfire inside a shopping mall Monday, killing one shopper and injuring another. The gunman also was killed and the guard was in critical condition.

Shoppers ran screaming for the exits and took cover inside stores after the bullets sprayed across the second floor of the mall, in an atrium near an entrance to a PNC Bank branch.

``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.″

Two shoppers were caught in the crossfire: a man who was dead at the scene and a 15-year-old girl who Frantzen saw bleeding profusely from her head.

FBI spokeswoman Linda Vizi said there may have been more than one perpetrator. An eyewitness told The Associated Press that 15 minutes after the shootout, a man was running through the mall waving a gun behind him.

Three hours after the shootout, a Gloucester County SWAT team was still searching the mall for any suspect who might still be hiding inside.

Police took two men from the mall in handcuffs, but Vizi said it was not immediately known if they were involved in the robbery and shooting. She said they might have simply refused to leave the mall when ordered. Deptford police would not immediately comment.

Other witnesses told police they saw one or two men flee the mall in a red car, and Vizi said that report was being checked.

Vizi said a bag of money was found near the dead gunman; she did not know how much. A 9-millimeter pistol believed to belong to the gunman also was recovered, she said.

The Brooks Armored Car Service guard was on his way into the bank to make a pickup when he encountered the gunman, Vizi said. After the shootout, he crawled inside the bank for help.

``I don’t know what kind of shape he was in,″ Vizi said. ``People do incredible things.″

Both the guard and the girl were in critical condition at Cooper Hospital-Medical Center in nearby Camden, said Sharon Clark, a hospital spokeswoman.

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.

Later, a body was covered with yellow plastic inside the mall near the Sears store, and a Brooks armored car was parked outside the Sears upper-level entrance at 4 p.m., its alarm blaring. It was surrounded by yellow police tape.

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.

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