MURRAY — Fashion Place Mall was somewhere Al Collins felt safe. Perhaps that’s why he didn’t move when alarms started to sound and a voice came over the loudspeaker warning everyone inside to evacuate, just moments before two people were shot just outside the entranceway.
It’s a part of the story that left an unnerving impression on many of the survivors of the Fashion Place Mall shooting: when the alarms went off, nobody moved.
Collins and another witness, Carol Spackman Moss, spoke to KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic to share what they experienced yesterday during the shooting, and both struggled with that same point, wondering why they and those around them hadn’t reacted when they were warned that their lives were in danger.
These are their stories.
Al Collins on the Fashion Place Mall shooting
Al Collins’ video of the Fashion Place Mall shooting. (Video courtesy of Al Collins / KSL TV)
Collins took the video above; a horrifying, visceral glimpse into what it’s like to be in the center of a shooting.
In it, you can hear the gunshots blast, hear a woman screaming: “No! No! No! No!”, and hear the sobs of Collins’ girlfriend as they make a mad dash toward the exit.
There was one question, however, that kept coming up from everyone who saw the video after Collins shared it online: why was he recording?
The answer, he told Dave & Dujanovic, has to do with the alarm that sounded moments before the shooting began; a part of the story that isn’t as widely known.
Collins pulled out his camera after the fire alarm started blaring and a voice sounded over the loudspeaker, saying, according to Collin’s recollection: “This an emergency. Please evacuate. This is not a drill.”
At the time, Collins says the moment struck him as “kind of ironic and kind of hilarious”. Nobody, he says, was reacting. It was something he thought would be worth recording: even while they were being ordered to run for their lives, not a single person seemed the slightest bit worried.
Nearly as soon as he’d pulled out his camera, however, the flash of a muzzle and the unmistakable sound of gunfire lit up the room.
It was loud; so loud that he was convinced that the shooter was in the building, no more than a few yards away.
Getting out alive
Collins says he didn’t have time to process what was happening. Still, in some part of his mind, he knew there was a good chance that he was in the center of a mass shooting.
Every news story he’d read since the shooting at Colorado’s Columbine High School in 1999 had left him convinced that his life was in danger. The person pulling the trigger, he knew, could have been a senseless killer, intent on making his way through the mall hunting down every person he saw.
He didn’t waste a second looking back. He ran. He and his girlfriend both broke into a hysterical sprint, joining a throng of people running away from the sound of the bullets as fast as they could.
“It was pretty chaotic,” Collins says. “Some people were hiding under things, some people were tripping over kids – it was just a mad dash to get out.”
The pair raced into the parking lot, where they immediately called the 9-1-1. Still, they stayed until the first cars came; Collins says that, when police arrived, he rushed over to show them which way to go.
Escaping, though, was a last-second change of plans. At first, his plan was to find a place to hide. When he saw an exit, however, he took it, thinking, in his words: “I’m not going to hide and have somebody hunt me down inside the mall.”
The gunshots, it seems, had made it real. As soon as he’d heard them, his whole way of thinking had changed. He’d gone from musing over the irony of an unaffected crowd ignoring an alarm to panicking at the very real possibility that someone was planning on hunting him down.
Still, even as he drove out of the parking lot and to safety, Collins spotted one last strange sight. Not everybody was running from the danger. Whole crowds were coming closer.
“People were coming to the scene to see what was going on,” he says. “It was crazy.”
Carol Spackman Moss on the shooting
Collins wasn’t the only person who didn’t run when the alarms went off. On the other side of the building, Carol Spackman Moss – a representative in the Utah State House – was strolling through the mall for exercise, and she, like Collins, heard the alarm sound.
“People did not move!” Moss says.
She says that she saw a few people get out of their seats and look around, scanning the crowd to see how everyone else was reacting. When they saw that nobody was reacting, however, they just sat back down and went back to assuming everything was fine.
For her part, Moss asked a store employee what was going on. She says that the employee, however, just told her: “Oh, that happens pretty often. It’s false alarms.”
As it turns out, that employee, in a way, was right. During a press conference today, Murray Police Officer Kenny Bass said that the alarm was nothing but a coincidence; a technical problem the mall had been dealing with for past few days.
Still, Moss struggles with her own reaction. “As I was processing it last night, I kept thinking that through,” she told Dave & Dujanovic. “Why didn’t I leave immediately?”
Moss says she didn’t leave until employees started closing the steel shutters outside their stores and yelling at customers to get out as fast as they could.
She got out safe and sound. Still, in the aftermath of the Fashion Mall shooting, she and Collins are both struggling with the strange ways they and those around them reacted to the one lucky warning they were given.
There was one obvious, logical thing every person present should have done, but neither they nor any of the people around them did it.
“Obviously you would leave,” Collins says, “but look at what our reactions are.”
In their own words
Listen to Collins and Moss share their stories, in their own words, on the Dave & Dujanovic podcast.
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