The two groups involved in a Thursday night shooting in the Colonie Center parking lot had known each other and had problems with each other in recent weeks, police said Friday.
Jermel Hawkins, 38, of Schenectady, was struck in the stomach by gunfire. He underwent surgery overnight Thursday and was expected to survive.
The ongoing dispute between the groups bubbled over as the result of a chance encounter in the ticket line at the mall’s movie theater, Colonie police spokesman Lt. Robert Winn said. While in line, two women, one from each group, got into an argument, and one woman was asked by mall security to leave.
Neither group made it into a movie and instead both left. Once in the parking lot, a man from one group opened fire on people in the other group as they got into their car to leave, Winn said.
The woman Hawkins was with drove him to Albany Medical Center. Another member of that group fled on foot after the shots were fired, Winn said.
No arrests have been made. Police believe the shooter and apparently a woman he was with fled in a car. Police know who that woman is and were trying to locate her, Winn said.
“We have a lot of really promising leads that we’re working on,” Winn said.
The original dispute possibly dated back weeks and was based in Albany, he said.
“Unfortunately, these two groups were going to have a dispute somewhere. They just ended up having it here,” Winn said of Colonie Center.
Winn did not know what movie the two groups were intending to see. Neither side got to the point of purchasing tickets. Newspaper movie listings indicate the Regal Colonie Center Stadium 18 was playing several movies in the 10 p.m. time range, including two new releases, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and “Straight Outta Compton.”
“Straight Outta Compton” has led to security concerns in some cities, according to media reports. In Los Angeles, police stepped up presence Thursday night. The movie tells the beginnings of the legendary rap group N.W.A.
Winn said police and mall representatives spoke throughout the day Friday and extra officers would be at the mall Friday evening, both regular on-duty officers and those contracted for by the mall. Winn said the extra presence was in response to both the Thursday shooting as well as the general concerns elsewhere about the movie.
Winn also noted that the time of the shooting, just after 10 p.m., meant that there were few other people in the parking lot. The mall was ready to close for the night, leaving only the theater and some restaurants open.
Despite the time, another parked car was hit by gunfire, with shots going through its windshield, police said. Police believe the shooter took aim from a walkway in the parking lot just south of the theater entrance, firing north toward the victims. That’s where they found the shell casings.
Among the few others in the parking lot was Audrey Goodemote. She said she was in her own car near the Barnes & Noble shortly after 10 p.m. waiting for a friend to get off work when the shots rang out.
“I was really freaked out,” Goodemote, 18, of Westerlo, told The Daily Gazette by phone late Thursday night. “I thought maybe it was firecrackers. I’m not really used to hearing gunshots.”
She put her seat back up and saw three vehicles close by speeding out of the parking lot. She wasn’t sure which ones may have been involved. She also saw one man fleeing on foot north, away from the mall.
“One person was just sprinting,” said Goodemote, who also took to Twitter to describe what she witnessed. “That’s when I knew something was happening.”
Worried, she drove out of the parking lot before thinking she might be following the shooters. She then returned. She soon saw “tons of police cars” arrive, along with a helicopter.
Police believe two of the cars Goodemote saw were of the shooter fleeing and the victim heading to the hospital. The man Goodemote saw fleeing was identified as an associate of Hawkins.
A police search of the area included a state police helicopter, as well as a Troy police K-9, Albany sheriff’s K-9, Guilderland police and the state Department of Environmental Conservation police. They were searching for the man on foot, who turned out to be Hawkins’ associate. They eventually found him on a bus.
Colonie Center released a statement Friday morning via Twitter thanking the Colonie Police Department for its work and response. The mall opened as usual Friday morning.
“The safety and security of our customers, employees and retailers remains our top priority,” the statement read. “We will continue working with the Colonie Police Department regarding the ongoing investigation.”
The incident follows a shooting earlier this year in the Crossgates Mall parking lot.
No one was injured in the April 23 Crossgates incident, but a vehicle was sprayed with gunfire in what Guilderland police termed an apparent attempted robbery.
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Categories: News, Schenectady County