COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Stories are beginning to come out on what it was like both inside and outside the Polaris Fashion Place Wednesday when shots were fired in the shopping center.
One customer, Magally Schmidt, said she was in the back of the Claire’s store when the shooting happened.
“I was in the back of the store and there were just some pops and I just hear commotion,” she said. “People were like, ‘Run. Run. Run.’”
Magally Schmidt added that employees of Claire’s led customers through the back door of the store.
“I knew it was going to be OK,” she said about being in the backroom of the store. “Everything was already shut down, the lights were off. They did a really good job of just, like, getting the customers into the back room and then closed the doors right away.”
She and other people huddled in the room took time to comfort a younger girl who was back there with them.
“She’s just consoling folks, she knows how to keep people calm, she knows what to do in a crisis situation,” Magally’s husband Bill said before his wife came out of the mall.
Bill Schmidt said while she was inside the store, she could only talk on the phone quietly but had been communicating with him via text.
“I told her to get low, keep quiet, and when the police tell her it’s safe, she’ll come out,” he said.
The Claire’s store manager was talking with another store manager, Magally Schmidt said, and that’s when they moved from the backroom to the front of the store.
“We all moved to the front and there were a couple of police officers just waiting and I think when they got the go, they opened the door and told us to go ahead and walk,” she said.
Magally Schmidt said she went to the mall for a quick trip to pick up hair bows for her daughter, never expecting an incident like this to happen.
Before his wife came out of the mall, Bill Schmidt said, “(She) called me, said the shooting had just taken place and I’m her husband. I’m gonna show up.”
The couple reunited outside the mall with a big hug.
“I told him not to come, but I knew he would be here,” she said.
“She’s OK,” Bill Schmidt said. “She’s the love of my life. We got about 50 years left, I figure.”
Meanwhile, in the food court, Shawn Anderson, manager of the Sbarro Pizza, said by the time he could see what was going on, people had already left the area.
“People just left whatever they had at the tables,” Anderson said. “They were already gone by the time I got there.”
He added police told him and his staff to go to the back of the restaurant and lock up.
“It was more confusion than anything else and just trying to figure out what was happening,” Anderson said, adding he wasn’t afraid because he wasn’t sure what was going on.
Police gathered Anderson and other people inside the mall into one place as officers cleared stores, bathrooms, and other places in the mall. Then, according to Anderson, they were released single file from the mall out one entrance.
“They definitely took care of that,” he said.
Jake Bame and his wife were working on getting their new store in the shopping center up and running Wednesday when the shots rang out.
Bame said after hearing the sound of gunshots, what came next was the feeling of the floor shaking as hundreds of people scattered, heading for different stores to take cover, or doors to get out.
Bame went to leave his store, but his wife stayed behind to help get people out of their store and out of the mall.
They made their way to Macy’s, where some people inside were still unaware of what was happening. That’s when Bame said they started yelling for people to get out.
Moments later, Bame and his wife saw someone with a gun.
“When she saw the individual with a gun, she instantly thought ‘This is it,’ and we both went into, ‘Is this a gentleman with a gun that’s trying to defend people or is this the shooter?’ and you have to play that out in your head because you don’t want to run towards or away in the wrong direction,” Bame said. “So you’re trying to do a thousand things and we came out and I don’t know.”
Bame was able to give a description of the person to police.