A Local Reminder of a National Crisis

An incident at our local Ross Park Mall proves that, due to the proliferation of firearms, even what we thought was a safe place is no longer.

Police+cars+and+SWAT+trucks+filled+into+the+parking+lot+at+Ross+Park+Mall+following+a+scary+afternoon+for+shoppers.

photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Police cars and SWAT trucks filled into the parking lot at Ross Park Mall following a scary afternoon for shoppers.

Waverly Younts, Staff Writer

On the afternoon of Saturday, May 29, a fight broke out on the second floor of Ross Park Mall that resulted in possible gunshots and ultimately two teenagers facing charges due to the illegal possession of firearms. This terrifying incident forced shoppers to sprint to the nearest exit, hide in dressing rooms, and a lockdown of the premises was put in place while police and a SWAT team were called in to escort shoppers to safety. According to officials of Ross Township, the altercation involved five to six juveniles and there were three deadly weapons recovered from the scene.

Thankfully, there were no injuries or fatalities.

I had the chance to talk to Justin Duffy, a bystander who was going to spend his Saturday afternoon shopping when he witnessed the crowd making their exit in a complete panic. 

“When I got to the mall, someone came running across the parking lot and told me that there was someone in the mall with a gun,” Duffy said. “I walked back to my car and was about to pull away when I saw a large group of people exiting the building. Shortly after, dozens of police cars, SWAT trucks, and even a fire truck pulled into the parking lot.”

North Allegheny junior Jaida Copeland was working at Sinful Sweets in the mall and never expected anything like this to happen.

“I think the best way to describe that day was that it felt like something out of a movie,” Copeland explained. “I do not think that any teenager should have to run through a mall for what she thought was her life.”

We are very fortunate that no one was injured or killed at Ross Park Mall, but it is not guaranteed that we will always be this lucky. ”

The mall, unfortunately, does not have security cameras installed that would have captured the event, so police had to rely mainly on verbal accounts, social media, and videos taken by witnesses. This absence of evidence due to the mall’s lack of scrutiny has sparked an immense amount of criticism from the North Hills community. Allegheny County’s district attorney is pushing to beef up the surveillance in the mall. After all, some witnesses recall hearing gunshots, while others do not. Therefore, the teens involved will not be charged with firing the guns due to the surrounding uncertainty. 

According to Lt. Brian Koklhepp with Ross Township police, Simon Properties, the mall’s parent company, is responsible for the lack of evidence. 

“Unfortunately, despite numerous attempts by our department to convince Simon Properties to put cameras in the mall, they have continued to refuse to do that,” Kohlhepp said

When I first heard the news of this incident, my heart sank into my stomach. Many of us spend our days off with friends and family shopping at Ross Park Mall. This location is less than five miles away from my house and I am there often. How could this happen to a place that has always been so safe to us? Are we really safe anywhere?

It is a sad reality that we now have to focus our attention on the surveillance of public areas rather than trying to eliminate the weapon itself. The truth is, those who believe in gun control may be outnumbered due to the enormous amount of people who own firearms. According to the Pew Research Center, the United States is ranked number one globally when it comes to gun ownership, and it is estimated that there are anywhere from 200 million to 350 million guns in the United States. 

As unfortunate as it is to say this, we got extremely lucky with the recent event at Ross Park Mall because no one was injured, and it is assumed that this was not a planned event because it started off with a brawl. However, it is baffling to me that the teenagers brought the weapons into the mall in the first place. What compels people to bring items of violence into very public areas? How did these underage individuals get the guns in the first place?

So many questions arise in my head, and it is frustrating to not know the answers to them. All that I do know is that I am tired of hearing coverage on the news of gun-related fatal events. We are very fortunate that no one was injured or killed at Ross Park Mall, but it is not guaranteed that we will always be this lucky.