A 21-year-old suspect who pointed a replica gun toward police was in critical condition Monday after he was shot multiple times by an officer in the Parks Mall in Arlington on Sunday afternoon, police said.
Police had not released the name of the suspect early Monday, as they were awaiting results from his fingerprints. The man is expected to be charged with aggravated assault, police Lt. Christopher Cook said Monday in an email.
The suspect remained in an Arlington hospital Monday.
Cook said Sunday the officer-involved shooting at the mall occurred at about 4:21 p.m. Police evacuated the mall and set up a perimeter around it.
Cook said the shooting took place inside the mall while the officer involved was investigating a theft offense at Sunglass Hut.
Mall security staff reported on a two-way radio that they were following a male suspect in his early 20s who had stolen two pairs of sunglasses.
“The suspect attempted to flee on foot and then ran through the upper level of the food court, where he turned around and produced what appeared to be a replica or imitation firearm,” Cook said.
One uniformed Arlington police officer remained on the upper deck of the mall while a second uniformed officer was on the lower deck. The suspect ran towards an escalator near the food court.
At that time, Cook said the suspect, who appeared to be wearing a sling, pulled an replica firearm from his waistband and pointed it at the police officer on the lower deck.
He said the officer discharged his weapon, striking the suspect multiple times.
Police recovered a replica firearm from the suspect that discharges 'BB's or pellets,' Cook said.
“This happened when the mall was extremely busy. I went in before the scene was stabilized and there were a lot of people upset, crying and kids misplaced from their parents and people sheltering,” said Cook. “There were a lot of bystanders, but luckily no one else was injured in this incident. The officer’s going to be OK. The only person struck was the suspect.”
Cook said the officer involved was on duty as a uniformed officer in the a South Retail District Unit.
Arlington officers have had several incidents involving replica weapons.
“As you all know we’ve had several incidents in our community involving these air soft-style weapons that look real,” said Cook. “And you can’t distinguish the difference between the two.”
Police released photos of the shooting that showed the suspect in a light gray, hooded sweatshirt, standing on the escalator, pointing what appears to be a weapon at the uniformed officer below.
Police Chief Will Johnson took to Twitter to defend the officer's actions saying, "Second photograph show the suspect pointing imitation replica BB gun directly at officer who was attempting to detain him for a theft investigation. It is nearly impossible to determine the authenticity of a real versus fake gun."
Cook said the officer will be interviewed as the investigation into the shooting continues, and could be placed on administrative leave.
“Typically it’s the standard administrative leave,” said Cook. “Obviously it’s a traumatic event for the officer as well.”
The Parks Mall in Arlington remained closed for the rest of Sunday night.
Staff writer Domingo Ramirez Jr. contributed to this report.