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Originally published Sunday, November 23, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Southcenter opens after shooting leaves one dead

Westfield Southcenter mall in Tukwila erupted in gunfire Saturday afternoon, leaving one teen dead and another teen critically wounded. The shooter remains at large.

Seattle Times staff reporters

TUKWILA — Westfield Southcenter mall opened this morning following a shooting yesterday that left a 16-year-old boy dead and another teen injured.

Police are still searching for a suspect in the shooting, which occurred just before 3:45 p.m. inside the mall near a south entrance and sent shoppers fleeing the building. The mall remained locked down until 9:30 last night as police searched store by store and allowed groups of workers and customers to leave as each business was searched, Tukwila police spokesman Mike Murphy said.

The two victims were taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where one later died.

A Harborview spokeswoman confirmed the dead teen was Daiquin L. Jones. The other victim, Jermaine McGowen, 15, whose condition has been upgraded to satifactory.

Jones had gotten out of jail Friday and McGowen was due in court Monday on burglary charges, authorities said. Other details of their criminal records were not available Sunday.

Distraught friends of Jones gathered outside the emergency-room entrance at Harborview Saturday night.

"Just say he was nice, and he was funny, and he was smart," said a girl who didn't want to be identified. One girl for a time curled up in a fetal position by the sidewalk. Talking on her cellphone, she cried, "Why is this all happening ... "

The incident occurred near the south main entrance of the mall, in a corridor near two restaurants. Police said Saturday they had talked to one eyewitness and were reviewing surveillance tapes. This morning, mall security officers are visible, with the mall concourses already open and stores scheduled to open at 11 a.m.

A morning show of the film "Twilight" at the nearby movie theater drew Pamela Wood of Bellevue, who brought four 12-year-old girls along. "The day after (a shooting) is probably a lot more secure. It might be the safest place today," she said.

Westfield Southcenter's management issued a statement this afternoon, noting their cooperation with the police investigation. "Clearly, such a senseless act in our community heightens everyone's state of awareness and concern. Our security precautions reflect that heightened state."

The suspect is described as a black male in his late teens or early 20s, of average build, about 5 feet 6 inches tall and 145 pounds. He was thought to be wearing a black jumpsuit with red piping.

"We're getting some pretty good evidence. I'm confident we'll be able to make an arrest," Murphy said.

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The Seattle Police Department's gang unit was looking for the suspect in Seattle Saturday night.

Tukwila police said the shooter fired several shots from a handgun.

At least two people were detained for questioning but police said none were the shooter.

What led to the shooting wasn't immediately known, but Murphy said the incident did not appear to be random. People inside the mall during the shooting described a chaotic scene.

Chauncey Williams, a soldier from Fort Lewis, said he was coming out of JCPenney when he saw two males arguing. One pulled a gun and started shooting. Williams said children screamed and shoppers ran.

"I've got the heebie-jeebies. It's like I'm back in Iraq or something," Williams said.

Another shopper said she saw what looked like several teenagers fighting when one pulled a gun. She said she heard a shot and ran into the Bare Escentuals store.

Steven Veltes, who works at Fast Fix Jewelry Repair, said he heard the shots and saw people running past the storefront. He told a customer to hurry into a back room, and then went out to see if he could help. He saw a teen with a chest wound lying on the floor. The teen's white T-shirt was covered in blood.

"He was saying 'Help me. Help me. Please help me,' " Veltes said. "He just kept mumbling that over and over."

Another man was trying to keep pressure on the wound with what looked like a shirt. Veltes ran back to the store and grabbed a roll of paper towels to help mop up the blood.

Mark Nickels, 51, of Seattle, was on the second floor when he heard the first shot. "Everybody just stopped. ... Then a second or two later, there was a second shot, and then everybody scattered. People were running to the [exits] or running to the stores to hide."

Heraclio Garnica, manager of the Thai Go restaurant in the mall's second-level food court, said he was standing and watching the restaurant when he heard a loud bang.

"As soon as I turned, I heard a second one, another bang," Garnica said. "There was lots of commotion, and people just started running."

Garnica said it had been one of the busiest days of the year for the restaurant, and the mall had been packed with shoppers up until the shooting. But within minutes, he said, "the whole mall was just empty."

The mall parking lot was a mess, witnesses said, as police evacuated people from inside.

Two other people inside the mall were hospitalized during the evacuation, including a pregnant woman who went into labor, said Dave Nelson, spokesman for Skyway Fire.

There have been two other mall shootings this year: On March 12, a man was hurt in a shooting in the Southcenter parking lot. Just weeks before, on Feb. 22, a teenage boy was shot in the leg outside Northgate Mall.

Over the summer, Southcenter unveiled a $240 million expansion that, at 1.7 million square feet, made it the biggest shopping center in the state.

Information from The Associated Press and the The Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

Seattle Times staff reporters Lynn Thompson, Erik Lacitis and Jennifer Sullivan contributed to this report.

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com; Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or nperry@seattletimes.com; Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or tvinh@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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