Melbourne Mayor Kathy Meehan told Florida Today that the incident stemmed from a domestic dispute between a woman who worked at the mall’s food court and her husband. The husband shot his wife, and then killed another food court worker who tried to intervene. The gunman, Jose Garcia Rodriguez, then fatally shot himself, said police.
Police have released few details, but the 911 call was received at 9:31 a.m. The two wounded individuals were taken to a nearby hospital, where Melbourne Police confirmed a second death occurred, reports CBS News. Ida Garcia, the wife of the gunman, is listed in stable condition at a local hospital, Cmdr. Vince Pryce of Melbourne Police told the Associated Press. Three handguns were recovered from the scene.
Officers from the Melbourne Police Department and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office are reportedly on the scene and blocking all mall entrances.
Several shootings have occurred at US shopping malls in the past two years, and each has reignited debate over the best way to improve safety in public settings, including more gun controls – or fewer restrictions on citizens carrying guns.
Individuals fled the Melbourne mall, including Donna Evans of Melbourne, Fla., who heard the gunfire about 20 feet away, according to the Associated Press.
“We had just gotten our food to sit down by Starbucks and Chik-fil-A, and you just hear the ‘pop, pop pop, pop, pop, pop, pop,’ and you just drop everything and your body just makes you run,” Evans said, reports the Orlando Sun-Sentinel.
Since the shooting, some residents have taken to Twitter to air their fears, concerns, and to offer support.
My heart goes out to those affected by the shooting at #MelbourneSquareMall today. So close to home...it's a scary world we live in.— Lex Burton (@GlitterintheRum) January 17, 2015
Multiple US mall shootings have taken place in the last few years, including a Maryland mall shooting in January 2014 that left three dead, a New Jersey shooting in November 2013, where the gunmen killed himself, and a shooting in Oregon that left three people dead in December 2012.
In the wake of these shootings, some safety experts have released tips on how to deal with attacks in public places. After the Oregon mall shooting, Indiana police officer Jeff Patterson told Indianapolis TV station WTHR:
If you can't get away, get into a room, lock the door. You turn off the light because remember this person is looking for targets of opportunity," said Patterson.
Although he teaches men, women and children how to fight off attackers, fighting back is his last recommendation in an active shooter situation. Patterson never recommends going after an active shooter especially in crowded places like the mall.
But conversations continue about how to best address the situation. Carmel (Indiana) High School students have been instructed in how to take down an active shooter. Some schools have trained teachers in how to shoot and two bills are pending in South Carolina which would teach students how to use guns safely and improve the Second Amendment teaching syllabus.
According to a Pew survey released in December, 57 percent of Americans believe guns do more to protect people than place them at risk.