The Mall of America is now using metal detectors at its entrances on a trial basis, a decision made after two shooting incidents in the past year, and nearly eight weeks after a man with a gun allegedly robbed two retailers and forced the massive shopping and entertainment complex into lockdown.
Bloomington police say they were made aware of the mall’s improved security about a week ago, Deputy Chief of Police Michael Utecht said Tuesday.
Responding to a Star Tribune investigation into the installation of metal detectors and the search of customers’ luggage prior to entry, mall spokeswoman Laura Utecht said in a statement: “At the Mall of America, the safety and security of our guests, tenants and team members is our top priority.We are always looking for innovative ways to improve security using the latest technology.
“With Mall of America being such a unique property, it is important to thoroughly evaluate this technology on-site to ensure its accuracy, effectiveness and efficiency. We are currently testing a variety of options that may allow us to ‘further improve our technologically advanced security systems at the Mall of America.’
Laura Utecht declined to reveal what customers should avoid trying to pass through metal detectors or what enforcement action would be taken based on what the detectors report.
The mall has long had a no-guns and no-fireworks policy at the Bloomington Mall, which has seen millions of visitors each year since it opened 30 years ago, but has never had detectors of metals nor searched for bags during all this time.
She also declined to say how long the trial period for the detectors would last or whether people who work at the mall are required to go through the detectors.
On August 26, 29-year-old Cartier T. Alexander of Woodbury allegedly robbed two Mall of America stores shortly after committing the same crime at a Minneapolis pawn shop. Alexander is charged with first-degree aggravated robbery in connection with the targeting of a Lids sportswear store and newsstand retailer as well as Twin Cities Pawn on E. Lake Street in Minneapolis.
Mall security apprehended Alexander and seized a loaded gun from him, according to the charges and other court documents.
About three weeks earlier, gunfire had erupted inside the crowded mall. Shamar Alon Lark, 21, of Minneapolis, and Rashad Jamal May, 23, of Burnsville, are charged with second-degree assault and felony discharge of a dangerous weapon. They remained jailed Friday in Cook County, Illinois.
The two were shown in mall surveillance video fleeing a fight between four other people that resulted in Lark firing multiple shots. No one was injured in the incident which sent shoppers running and the mall into lockdown.
On December 31, two people were shot and injured following an argument on the third floor of the mall. Kahlil M. Wiley, 19, pleaded guilty to second-degree assault in connection with that shooting and was sentenced to 3½ years, with the first two-thirds serving in jail and the remainder on probation.