HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — A man has been arrested on a murder charge in connection with a recent shooting at an Alabama shopping mall that left an 8-year-old boy dead and three other people injured, authorities said Sunday.
Hoover police announced the arrest of Montez Coleman, 22, in connection with the shooting Friday afternoon the Riverchase Galleria Mall. The boy was identified by police as Royta Giles Jr., a rising third grader at a local elementary school.
Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said that Coleman, who had been sought on a capital murder warrant, also is charged with three counts of second-degree assault in the wounding of a man, woman and girl — all innocent bystanders. They were each treated for gunshot wounds and subsequently released from medical care.
“Our community is heartbroken,” Derzis said at a news conference, AL.com reported. “The officers who were on the scene will forever bear the image of an innocent child who died in their arms.”
Hoover is a suburban community about 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of Birmingham, Alabama’s biggest city.
Derzis told reporters the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office issued a capital murder warrant against Coleman on Saturday night and that he was taken into custody without incident.
It was not immediately known if Coleman had an attorney who could comment for him.
Derzis said officers who arrived at the mall immediately after Friday’s shooting were alerted to reports of someone with a firearm running through the parking deck of a nearby hotel, adding investigators later identified that person as Coleman.
He said an investigation determined Coleman had gotten into an argument with a group of other males near the mall food court on the first floor and fired a handgun that had been concealed in a backpack. Derzis said several of the others had handguns and immediately returned fire.
Police have not said publicly who fired the shots that struck Royta and the other victims. At least three people fired guns, according to police, adding that multiple shots were fired in seconds and that the boy was shot in the head. The mall was evacuated afterward.
Derzis said investigators are seeking to identify the others involved in the shooting and asked for the help of the public as they released surveillance video at the news conference.
The mall in the suburban Birmingham area was the site of a 2018 police shooting where an officer fatally shot a Black man with a gun after mistaking him for the gunman in an earlier shooting at the mall. The shooting of 21-year-old Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr. prompted a series of protests at the mall. The Alabama attorney general’s office cleared the officer, saying he acted “reasonably under the circumstances” in that encounter.