Fred Ruthven captured this image outside the West Edmonton Mall.
Multiple evacuees from wildfires in the Northwest Territories found themselves locked down at the massive West Edmonton Mall amid reports of gunfire.
Edmonton Police said on X they were dealing with “multiple reports of a shooting” at the mall as of 9pm on Monday evening.
“There are concerns for public safety and the mall is currently on lockdown,” the police service stated, requesting that “all pedestrians and motorists stay away from West Edmonton Mall and the immediate area.”
At 9:30pm, police added that “three people sustained serious injuries in relation to this shooting and all of them have been transported to hospital for treatment.”
Shortly before 10pm, evacuees inside the mall reported the lockdown had ended. Police confirmed the lockdown was “in the process of being lifted” but said the area in which the shooting occurred would remain blocked off while an investigation continues.
Earlier, video available online had showed a public address system urging people to seek shelter.
Edmonton is a major host community for evacuees from fires affecting territorial capital Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Hay River and others.
“I was watching Oppenheimer at the West Edmonton Mall and the movie stops. We all have to leave immediately. Armed police everywhere,” said Fred Ruthven, ordinarily a Yellowknife resident.
He understood a shooting to have taken place in the vicinity of the parking lot next to the theatre, though police did not immediately confirm the exact location associated with reported gunfire.
Mahalia Villebrun-McArthur, an evacuee from Fort Smith, said she and her husband had been at a restaurant on Bourbon Street, the mall food court, when their son ran toward them having heard reports of gunshots.
“People were running down the hall. We ran out of the restaurant and down the hall to the doors,” Villebrun-McArthur told Cabin Radio.
“Our truck was parked close to the Bourbon mall entrance. We ran fast and we could hear multiple shots, a minimum of 15.”
The Villebrun-McArthurs drove away to safety.
Yellowknife resident Safaa Nielsen told Cabin Radio her sister and friend were locked down inside the mall and had heard sirens in the area.
They had been locked down for a little more than an hour, Nielsen said at 9pm on Monday. Both, like Nielsen, are evacuees from Yellowknife.
Speaking from her hotel five minutes away, she described the unfolding incident as the “worst possible timing,” adding: “Going to the mall to get your mind off the evacuation, only to be locked down.”
Another Yellowknife resident, Trisha Smith, said she was locked down inside a store within the mall with her family.
“Definitely not a good feeling from being evacuated, stressed, and now scared, to having to be on lockdown in a store, not knowing what is going on except for only what you hear on Facebook,” Smith said. “We are still waiting and still on lockdown.”
“By the time we get back to Smith,” said Villebrun-McArthur, “we may be desensitized to crises.”