INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Shots rang out inside Independence Center on Friday afternoon, injuring four people. One of those victims is a pregnant woman who was critically wounded.

Police believe two groups exchanged gunfire inside the mall about 2:20 p.m. Friday, unleashing a scary scene for innocent bystanders like brothers Nick and Chris Stephens.

Independence police said they took three people into custody. They are still trying to determine if anyone else was involved.

“The first shot, it was like ‘pow pow pow pow pow,'” Nick Stephens said in quick succession, imitating the sound of rapid gunfire. “Then it stopped for a moment and then people ducking, people screaming.”

“I see people start running, and then like everybody on the upper floors there is closing their stores down. People are trying to hide, go inside the stores as they are closing it down,” his brother Chris said. “Then you hear screams and just hear people saying, ‘Go go run run run! He’s got a gun.'”

Police said it was multiple people with guns in two groups who encountered each other and pulled out their weapons.

“We see it not just at the mall but other places around the city where people get in disturbances, and they are real quick to try to settle those disputes,” Independence Officer Jack Taylor said. “I think this just happens to be place where people gather and those disputes just happen to pop up here.”

While stores went into all too familiar emergency protocols and lockdowns, we’re told some frightened families were separated from each other. Police set up a family reunification center at a nearby car wash.

“People was leaving their kids, and there’s kids just walking around and we are trying to guide them out,” Nick Stephens said.

“Yeah it was scary, it was pure chaos,” his brother responded.

The Independence Center put out this message to the public regarding the shooting:

“We are deeply saddened by the events that unfolded, and we extend our sympathies to those affected by this senseless act. Our primary concern is the well-being and recovery of the victims and safety of the community.
We are grateful for the swift action taken by first responders at the scene, with assistance from our advanced camera systems, were able to quickly relay information to the Independence Police Department to aid them in their response. We commend the diligent efforts of IPD, in locating and taking suspects into custody quickly.
While the investigation continues, we believe it is crucial to focus on the victims and their families.”

Independence Center spokesperson

A GoFundMe page has been set up for the pregnant woman who was critically wounded.

Anyone with information should call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-8477. All tips are anonymous.