After shooting, employee questions security protocols at Westroads Mall

Published: Mar. 19, 2021 at 9:11 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A week ago, Omaha Police swarmed Westroads Mall after one of their own was shot in the head by a suspected shoplifter.

At the time, the mall was filled with Friday afternoon shoppers. A young woman who works inside says she now has serious questions about her safety.

“I was like ‘whoa, what’s going on?’” said Ty Leriger, a shopper at Westroads when the commotion broke out. “You know those steel shutters? They started just slamming them down.”

“They got people running,” said another woman outside the mall. “People all in lockdown and stuff.”

Omaha Police say a shoplifter shot an officer in the head and then fled the scene. At least five customers told 6 News they had no idea what was going on.

They heard no alert and no announcement made from inside the mall.

Mackenzie Schmidt, who works at the mall and was off the clock on Friday, says she was there shopping with a friend. Her phone buzzed and it was her mother telling her about the shooting. “I was nervous,” said Schmidt. “And I was telling my friend because we were in a line, and I was like, ‘we need to go.’”

Outside, police set up a perimeter, searching for the shooter.

Inside, Schmidt wanted answers so she called the store manager where she works. “They didn’t know that happened either,” she said. “And so, they immediately shut the doors. So, I was the one who told my store what happened.”

Sadly, Friday’s shooting at Westroads was not the first. In December 2007, a gunman opened fire in Von Maur, killing eight people.

6 News contacted mall security and attempted to reach the general manager about safety precautions for active shooter situations. We were told “no comment.”

While inside, Schmidt asked employees working the store she was in if they knew what was going on. “I was like ‘I work at the mall, too’ and I was asking them and they are like ‘yeah, I didn’t know what was happening like at all.’”

Schmidt says the apparent lack of protocol has her now asking questions. She and her co-workers are still on edge, to the point they’re now taking matters into their own hands.

“Me and my manager actually thought about like ‘what if would happen again?’” she said. “So, we like went in our back room and looked for like of where we, like what we would do and stuff so we kind of had a plan then.”

Speaking as both a customer and employee, Schmidt says some notice of what to do would have been nice.

6 News also made numerous requests to speak to mall security but were told the general manager of the mall is declining any comment.

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