An 8-year-old boy died Friday in a shooting at an Alabama mall that left three other people injured, police said. Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said the boy was killed in the afternoon shooting at the Riverchase Gallery.
The police chief said a girl and two adults were also hospitalized after the shooting.
The Bessemer City School system identified the 8-year-old victim as Royta Giles Jr.’s affiliate CBS WIAT-TV reports that he would have been a third grader this fall at Jonesboro Elementary School.
The school system described him as “an intelligent child, who was a gem, with big dreams of one day entering the music industry.”
“He was brilliant, articulate and very convincing. We even tried to convince him to become a lawyer,” said former assistant principal Van James in the school system statement.
Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato said he visited the boy’s parents on Friday night.
“This was just a senseless tragedy and of course they are devastated by this,” said Brocato. He asked city residents to pray for the family.
Police did not give a reason for the shooting near the food court inside the mall. Derzis said police are working on promising leads, but did not say if they had identified suspects.
“We do not know at this time what led to the shooting or how many gunmen were involved,” police Capt. Gregg Rector said in a previous press release.
Multiple shots were reported, police said.
Annalisa Pope, who works at Hollister at the mall, told WBMA-TV in a telephone interview that she heard six to seven shots that “sounded like they were coming from all directions.”
“It wasn’t just one or two,” said Pope. “That’s what took me by surprise. They (the shooting) just continued.”
“It felt so close,” he said. “It was so surreal. It doesn’t even feel real right now. You wouldn’t expect something like that to happen out of nowhere on a normal Friday afternoon.”
The mall was evacuated after the shooting.
Hoover Police asked if there was someone at the mall who witnessed the shooting to call authorities.
“This is certainly a tragic situation when you have an innocent child who is caught in the middle of an altercation among others,” said Derzis.
The mall in the Birmingham suburbs was the site of a 2018 police shooting where an officer fatally shot a black man with a pistol after mistaking him for the gunman in a previous shooting at the mall.
thesparked a series of protests at the mall. The Alabama attorney general’s office authorized the officer, saying he acted “reasonably under the circumstances” in the encounter that lasted approximately five seconds.