A sport-utility vehicle plowed through a suburban Chicago mall on Friday, sending people running for cover and prompting fears of a shooting, police and witnesses said.
There was no gunfire and Schaumburg police in a statement later Friday called it an “isolated incident” and said that a 22-year-old man who was the only person in the SUV was in custody in connection to the incident at around 2:22 p.m. at the Woodfield Mall.
The man was not immediately identified. Police said there were only very minor injuries and that none of the people hurt were actually struck by the vehicle. The driver got deep into the mall, stopped, and was detained by some mall patrons that included two off-duty police officers, Schaumburg Police Chief Bill Wolf said.
"Right now we're not going to speculate on motive, other than just to say that there is no indication that this was a terrorist attack. There's no indication that this was something pre-planned, no indication that the mall itself was a target or thought to be a target ahead of time," Wolf said at a Friday evening news conference.
Some type of medical issue is one of the possibilities police are investigating, Wolf said. The driver, from the northwest Chicago suburban area, acted alone and no one else is believed to have been involved, he said.
Customers were stunned and some huddled in stores. "Yo, this not happening right now!" one person said in video that showed people running as the vehicle crashed into a display and drove in the concourse of the shopping center.
"All of a sudden we heard a lot of screaming and running," said Olivia LaPorta, of Algonquin, Illinois, and who was inside a store when the vehicle crashed through the mall.
She described hearing pops that had people wondering if it was gunfire, and an employee rushed to close up the front of the store, she said. They waited there until police gave them the clear to leave.
"Walking out of the mall I saw some socks on the floor. I saw some shoes on the floor," LaPorta said.
Another witness said that “all of the sudden, a car came crashing through this window over at Sears, took out a bunch of clothes hangers and what-not, and then went through Sears.”
One woman said she ran into a Hollister store and told people inside to stay there, “because there’s a crazy guy driving with no sense."
Adding to the chaos, police said they received not only reports that a vehicle had driven through a mall entrance into the mall itself, but also that there was an active shooter, Wolf said.
"There absolutely was no shots fired," he said. "... There was broken glass in the mall, and it appeared that what people heard as shots fired was from broken glass in the mall."
The injuries occurred as people fled the area, Wolf said. Woodfield Mall is one the largest malls in the Chicago area, NBC Chicago reported.
"We are grateful no one was injured, and thank our security team and the police for their quick response," the mall management said in a statement to the station.
Schaumburg is a village of around 74,200 northwest of downtown Chicago.
Police have seen some video that suggests the driver was inside the mall for a short period of time before driving through it, Wolf said. "We don't know exactly what caused him to go back in, or to drive back into the mall," he said.
Wolf said that investigators have no information of a past connection the driver had with the mall, or any indication that he was angry or had any reason to target the mall. Police have no record of contact with the suspect in the past, he said.