Concord Mills reopens; police ID 2 suspects after officer-involved shooting inside mall

CONCORD, N.C. — Officers shot a suspect they say fired at them inside the Concord Mills mall on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Concord Police Department. The mall went into lockdown following the shooting that happened around 12:30 p.m. and closed for the day.

Police said they responded to the mall for reports of three people stealing a credit card. After a chase through the mall, they said one of the suspects fired a gun at the officers. Police returned fire, hitting the suspect, according to an update from CPD Maj. Todd McGhee around 4:30 p.m.

The suspect who was shot, Dominic Jeter, 23, was taken to a hospital in critical condition, but died days later, authorities said Tuesday. No officers were hurt during the shooting, police said.

Concord police confirmed Thursday that two 21-year-old men were arrested in connection with the incident.

Wuanell Hernandez, 21, of Charlotte, and Christian Tyson, 21, of Kannapolis, were arrested and taken to the Cabarrus County Jail.

On Thursday morning, Concord Mills reopened for its normal operating hours from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

In the update on Wednesday, McGhee said two Concord police officers went to the mall after someone called 911 saying three people stole their credit card from them while they were inside one of the stores.

The caller described what the suspects were wearing and where they were, so the officers were able to quickly find them, McGhee said. As soon as the officers tried to approach the suspects, they fled back into the mall, according to McGhee. That’s when the officers chased suspects through the mall.

(WATCH PREVIOUS: Police return fire, striking armed suspect accused of theft inside Concord Mills)

McGhee said at the end of the chase, one of the suspects flashed a handgun. He said one of the officers announced on radio that the suspect had a gun, and the officers gave him multiple commands to drop the weapon.

According to McGhee, the officers were still chasing the suspect when he fired at least one shot in the officers’ direction. The bullet hit the ground in front of an officer, McGhee said.

Both of the officers returned fire, hitting the suspect, McGhee said. He added the suspect was flown to a hospital in Charlotte in critical condition. Authorities later said he died from his injuries. The other two suspects are in custody, McGhee said.

Concord Mills mall is closed until further notice, police said. In a tweet, Concord police said there was no danger to the public.

“This incident frightened a lot of people at the mall and it is understandable many people would have questions about what happened here today,” McGhee said. “The Concord Mills mall has policies and plans in place for terrible situations like this and I want to give credit to them for following the plans and helping in the early investigation.”

The officers involved in the shooting were identified as Officers Jeremy Howarth and Maria Westphal. The State Bureau of Investigation is leading the case.

Chopper 9 Skyzoom could see a heavy police presence outside the mall around 1 p.m. Several Concord police cars could be seen on the property and on the surrounding roads.

‘I just ran, scared’

Shopper Lisa Mash told Channel 9′s Hannah Goetz that she was on her way to pick up her kids after the shooting.

“I was on the phone but I heard a loud noise, but the Coach manager was good,” Mash said. “She said it’s gunshots, so she shut the gate.”

Mash was shopping at the Coach Outlet when she said the store manager told customers to hide in the back room because there had been a shooting.

“I just ran, scared,” Mash said. “I go back, go in the back. That’s all you can do is hide and wait.”

She said that customers were allowed to leave one store at a time. Most of the people Goetz saw leaving were on their phones, some with their arms around each other.

Matthew Williams is an employee at the Ann Taylor Loft store. He was inside when the shooting happened.

“We were in my store dealing with some customers and me and my assistant were in the front, and we saw people running from the left end of the mall down,” Williams said.

Williams said his company’s active shooter training helped him to stay calm.

“We actually went through one last week so we were able to look up and hide and pull all seven customers in the back with us,” Williams said.

He said he used that training to lock down the store and move his customers to safety.

“When you saw people running, it was kind of scary because people didn’t know if it was true or not,” Williams said. “I just took it like it was a life-threatening situation and just pulled everyone in for safety.”

Violence at Concord Mills: A troubling trend

Channel 9′s Allison Latos has covered safety and security concerns surrounding this mall for years. Concord Mills is private property so the mall manages and enforces security inside.

Earlier this year, Concord police installed license-plate reader cameras along the Concord Mills corridor to catch anyone starting trouble. The cameras constantly run license plate numbers through “hot lists” for stolen cars and missing or wanted people. So if a crime does occur, investigators can get license plate information to help them identify cars -- and people involved -- faster.

Last year, Simon Property Group -- which owns the mall -- announced a new chaperone program. From 3 p.m. until closing on Fridays and Saturdays, anyone under the age of 18 has to be with an adult 21 or older. That change came after years of violence we’ve covered, including:

Concord Mills hasn’t been the only spot of tragic incidents for the Concord Police Department. We’ve covered several officer-involved shootings with Concord police lately.

In Dec. 2020, Officer Jason Shuping was killed and his colleague, Officer Kaleb Robinson, was hurt when an armed carjacking suspect opened fire on Gateway Lane near Bruton Smith Boulevard, not far from Concord Mills. The suspect, 29-year-old Jeremy Maurice Daniels, also died.

Just last week, Cabarrus County District Attorney Roxann Vaneekhoven decided not to charge former Concord officer Timothy Larson after a deadly shooting at a car dealership in February. She said Brandon Combs tried to steal a truck, didn’t obey 15 verbal commands, and ran into Larson’s running police SUV before Larson fired his gun. Combs’ family has filed a civil lawsuit, but the DA called the shooting justified.

“We have a community that wants to make sure police are well trained and responsible. And we also have police officers that can’t hesitate when faced with the threat of death or imminent danger,” Vaneekhoven said.

Now, the SBI will begin the complicated process of investigating Wednesday’s shooting. When agents are finished, the district attorney will decide whether to deem this shooting justified. But that won’t be Vaneekhoven’s decision -- she’s retiring after Wednesday, so Wednesday’s case will be in the hands of the new DA, Ashlie Shanley.

This is a developing story. Check back for details.

(WATCH: Police give update following officer-involved shooting at Concord Mills)