Shoppers at Horton Plaza mall in downtown San Diego were jarred Tuesday when police officers swarmed the mall, running after an armed woman who was reported to be suicidal.
The woman fired shots at the shopping center, hurting herself, the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) said. No one else was harmed. At 3:30 p.m., police confirmed the woman had died from her wounds.
Shoppers scrambled to safety and ran for cover as they tried to make sense of the heavy police activity at the mall. One man told NBC 7 he heard a loud "pop" as officers approached the woman.
"I saw one cop -- he had his gun drawn. I couldn't really see much else, and then I heard one big 'pop,' and then I just got down after that," the witness told NBC 7. "It was kind of scary."
"I'm glad I'm on high blood pressure medicine," said another witness, who heard the shots and was relieved to hear no one else was wounded. "I can't run, so I would have to go under those steps because I walk slow -- I can't run. It was scary; it was surreal, sort of."
According to police, the commotion at the mall began around 11:45 a.m. when an SDPD officer spotted a woman in a car in the downtown San Diego area who had been reported as suicidal earlier in the day.The officer followed the woman’s car into the Horton Plaza parking structure.
The woman exited her car and ran into the mall. Believing the woman was armed, officers ran after her. Police found the woman in the mall outside some stores and, moments later, the police department said shots were fired.
The woman had turned a gun on herself, police said, and was critically injured from a self-inflicted gunshot.
NBC 7 news crews saw officers surrounding the woman near a Gap store on one of the upper levels of the mall. Medics were called to Horton Plaza and the wounded woman was rushed to a local hospital just after 12 p.m.
Many people were at Horton Plaza at the time of the incident, as holiday shopping season is under way. At one point during the incident, police evacuated shoppers from one part of the mall.
A couple shopping at Jimbo's at the time of the incident said people were frantically rushing into the grocery store because they didn't know where the gunshots were coming from or what was happening. The couple said people were taken to the back of the store, as a precaution, until police said it was safe to leave.
The woman's name was not immediately released.
On Wednesday, the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s (ME) office confirmed the woman was 37 years old. She died from severe head trauma suffered in the self-inflicted shooting, the ME said.