By Michael Tennant
A good guy with a gun kept a mass shooting at an Indiana shopping mall from claiming vastly more than the three lives — plus that of the shooter — that it took.
Around 6 p.m. Sunday, a gunman, later identified as 20-year-old Jonathan Sapirman, stepped into the food court at the Greenwood Park Mall and opened fire with a long rifle. Sapirman lived near the mall in Greenwood, a suburb of Indianapolis.
Sapirman managed to kill three people and injure two others before another young man whipped out his legally owned gun and shot Sapirman dead, ending his shooting spree.
In a Monday press conference, Greenwood Police Chief Jim Ison said that Sapirman had been in the mall restroom for over an hour before he began shooting, reported WRTV. Ison added that “it took about two minutes for the suspect to leave the bathroom and start shooting before he was shot by the armed civilian.”
While the loss of even one life, let alone three (and Sapirman’s), is a tragedy, “police said the toll could have been higher if not for the actions of [the] armed civilian,” WRTV wrote.
“The real hero of the day is the citizen that was lawfully carrying a firearm in that food court and was able to stop the shooter almost as soon as it began,” said Ison.
That citizen, later identified as 22-year-old Elisjsha Dicken of Seymour, Indiana, “authorized police to release his name but is asking for privacy as he still processes what happened,” WRTV reported elsewhere.
When Sapirman’s shooting spree commenced, “panicked mall goers ran for cover,” recounted WRTV. “Many sought shelter alongside employees in various stores and shops walled off from the main mall by rolling metal gates.”
Chris Roy, assistant manager of the mall’s Vans store, told the Indianapolis Star that he was just about to close for the day when he saw people running away from the food court.
“So, I jumped over the counter, locked the door, gathered my associates and other managers at the back door,” said Roy, 30.
They hadn’t heard gunshots, but Roy said they saw enough people running to not ask questions. Through the back door they huddled in an interior hallway with about 40 or 50 other people — mostly customers from other stores, Roy said. That hallway didn’t have an exterior exit, so they waited for police to come clear them, he said. Roy and another man tried to keep everyone calm, but occasional footsteps on the other side of one of the connecting doors sent panic through the group.
“We just instructed everybody to keep quiet,” he said.
After 10 or 15 minutes, police cleared them from the hallway and escorted them out of the mall.
Detectives found a backpack in the mall bathroom, but it was found to be harmless.
Police are still searching for a motive in the case. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is trying to recover data from Sapirman’s cellphone, which agents found in a mall toilet, and laptop, which was in an oven at his home, where Sapirman was trying to destroy it, having placed butane in the oven and turned it on.
Ison said Sapirman “had no known mental health problems,” but, “as a juvenile, he had some previous incidents with the Greenwood Police Department,” noted WRTV. The latter, however, did not prevent him from legally obtaining the weapons he took into the mall.
Gun-control advocates, naturally, took the occasion to blame firearms for the incident and call for stricter gun laws. Representative Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), who once threatened to nuke Americans who wouldn’t give up their guns, decried that “too many families … again lost a loved one because we are a country of unrestricted weaponry.”
Others, though, recognized that humans are responsible for their actions and that those who employ guns to protect lives should be honored.
“This senseless act in Greenwood is devastating. Hoosiers across the state are no doubt upset but also mobilized in care & prayer for their fellow Hoosiers,” tweeted Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita. “The bravery of the armed individual who took action to stop the shooter undoubtedly saved lives, and for that I and many others are grateful.”