A man was fatally shot Wednesday afternoon at Oakwood Center Mall near Gretna amid the crush of last-minute Christmas shopping, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office said. Authorities quickly apprehended a man suspected in the shooting that they said was a planned attack.
Gary M. François, 25, of Marrero, was taken into custody after being chased to Cherry Blossom Lane and Wright Avenue by someone believed to be an off-duty law enforcement officer, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand told reporters.
At least three shots were fired in the incident, which occurred in the Foot Locker store about 4 p.m. shortly after James Vaughn, 24, of Harvey, made a purchase there.
Col. John Fortunato, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said that homicide investigators believe François targeted Vaughn.
Surveillance footage from outside of the store shows François standing outside of the business waiting for Vaughn to finish making his purchase, Fortunato said.
After he made the purchase, François walked into the store holding a gun and began to fire at Vaughn.
François was then seen running from the store into a neighboring shop before running outside to a parking lot, Fortunato said.
Shoppers were asked to leave the mall after the shooting; a traffic jam ensued as panicked shoppers left the mall en masse.
Normand praised mall security for preserving order after the gunshots created “bedlam” at the mall.
François has prior arrests for aggravated battery, resisting arrest, disturbing the peace, simple criminal damage and simple battery, among other charges, Fortunato said.
Staff writers Gordon Russell and Ramon Antonio Vargas contributed to this report. Follow Danny Monteverde on Twitter, @DCMonteverde.