Vickie Garrison and her daughter almost made it to a hallway exit of Park City Center mall Sunday before the shooting began.
As they carried bags of clothes for her daughter’s new job that started the next day, they decided to make one more stop on their way out: Lush, a cosmetics chain known for its scented soaps and bath bombs.
“We had just walked in Lush and heard a big bang,” said Garrison, a 56-year-old Spring Grove resident.
Garrison peeked out of the store entrance and saw people running and screaming.
“I definitely knew something bad happened,” she said. “People looked scared to death.”
Lush borders the food court where Lancaster police say six shots were fired Sunday afternoon during an altercation between two males who knew each other. A 16-year-old initiated the shooting that left four people with gunshot wounds, including a woman who was struck in the arm when she walked by with her family.
Another bystander heard shots while in a store and began shooting at the two males fighting over the gun.
Trampling injuries resulted from the mall customers who bolted to the nearest exit.
But Garrison and her daughter were pulled deeper into Lush, where they hid in a closet in the back of the store. With them were two store employees, a nurse and one man.
They remained there for about a half-hour — which felt like one of the longest stretches in their lives.
Finding peace in her Christian faith, Garrison thought, “If I’m going to die today, I know where I’m going.”
Safe in a stock room
Across the mall from Lush, Muhammed Khan and his customers were hiding in a JC Penney stock room.
Khan, an East Manchester Township resident and 12-year employee of the department store, relied on company training to navigate the emergency.
When one of his associates told him to hide because of a shooting in the mall, he ushered the customers in his curtain and mattress department into the stock room.
Khan told the shaken shoppers to stay away from the door while he stood by it, looking out of a tinted window.
He told them not to worry.
Khan used a walkie-talkie to inform security that he had customers with him in the stock room. He was told to stay put until receiving more information.
Eventually, they were allowed to exit.
“It was scary, but I think the security people did a good job,” Khan said.
‘Still eerie to think about’
Khan returned to work the next day at Park City, which he said is a good mall.
Everything seemed normal on Monday, but people were talking about the shooting, he said.
Garrison is still talking about it, too.
She is thankful to the “very professional” and “levelheaded” workers at Lush who kept them safe.
Garrison is also recalling the chilling things she saw when she emerged from the store.
Police were called to the scene at 2:26 p.m.
Garrison estimated she walked out of the Lush closet sometime after 3 p.m. and stepped into the food court where the shooting took place.
She saw empty food stands, spilled drinks and shoes and purses sitting on the floor.
“It’s like people dropped everything and ran,” Garrison said.
“It’s still eerie to think about.”
Garrison recalled how she and her daughter talked about the shooting during their drive home from Park City on Sunday.
“We talked about how anything can happen at any moment,” she said. “And why would anybody need a gun in Park City mall?”
Firearms are prohibited on mall property, according to Park City’s code of conduct.
“We recognize that yesterday was a frightening experience for our shopping center community, and we are saddened to have been the location for such an unfortunate incident,” Park City Center’s owner, Chicago-based Brookfield Property Partners, said in a statement Monday.
They directed further questions to Lancaster Police Department, which is leading the investigation.
While other workers and shoppers have returned to Park City, Garrison is apprehensive.
“I don’t think I’ll go to a mall for a while — or any crowded space,” she said.
Garrison has a lot of support at home, where she was wrapped in hugs and kisses when she returned after the trauma of being so close to violence.
Her daughter was able to start her new job on Monday in a beauty salon, but she’s still on edge, Garrison said.
As she continues to reflect on her experience, she keeps coming back to the same thought: “Don’t take anything for granted.”
Park City Center shooting:Here’s what we know about the incident at Lancaster mall
Candy Woodall is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Pennsylvania Capital Bureau. She can be reached at 717-480-1783 or on Twitter at @candynotcandace.