Northwoods Mall employees’ reactions to ‘smash and grab’
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) – Loud popping noises in a crowded mall are any shopper’s nightmare, and that’s exactly what employees said they heard at Northwoods Mall in North Charleston on Saturday.
North Charleston Police responded to the mall for reports of a shooting, which was later determined to be a “smash and grab” robbery at Zales Jewelry.
Athena Kesner, an employee at Northwoods Mall, was working a few yards from the scene.
“All of a sudden, I just hear, ‘Bang!’ “Bang! Blast!” “All of a sudden!” Kissner said. “And my first thought was, ‘Holy crap.’” Shooting”.
Another mall employee, Kodan Heavy, was also working directly across the hall and saw the suspect herself.
“He had a hammer or an ax or some kind of weapon in his hand, or a blunt instrument, and he was hitting the surface of the table hard,” Heavey said.
A few shoppers who spoke off camera described the situation as horrific. One said it was a shame she couldn’t even go Christmas shopping without feeling a little anxious.
The incident report states that a Zales employee told officers that a man entered, smashed a jewelry case, stole merchandise and left a crowbar.
“I had no idea what was going on,” Kisner said. “Just, you know, heart pounding.”
Kesner and Heaphy say they had to follow the mall’s security procedures by locking the store’s entrance gates, hiding customers in the back and waiting for approval from law enforcement.
They both said they felt prepared.
“We got as much training as we could get,” Kisner said.
However, I didn’t feel the same way going to work this week.
“I’m nervous,” Kisner said. “I heard a noise earlier from someone’s gate and it made me jump. And I’m like, geez. I’m going to be jumping for the rest of the week.”
North Charleston Police say there have been eight robberies — some armed — in or around the Northwoods Mall property since 2021. Kissner also mentioned a shooting that injured three at the mall that occurred on Valentine’s Day in 2021.
Stacy Keating, vice president of corporate communications for CBL Properties, which oversees Northwoods Mall, declined to provide security camera footage of the “smash and grab” incident. However, she made this statement:
In addition to employing a full-time outside security team, we maintain a close working relationship with the North Charleston Police Department, which includes assigning off-duty officers to patrol during periods of high traffic. Our security measures include these efforts that are visible to the public as well as many that are not visible. We continually evaluate our security protocol and make adjustments as necessary.
We take the concerns of mall employees and customers seriously. We will have a PD on site on Black Friday, throughout the weekend and the holiday season.
Heavy says this incident could change the number of people shopping at the mall this holiday season, but they are still positive.
“It’s just like the rest of the events in America,” Heavey said. “A lot of people gather this way to do some shopping or just spend time with their family and friends.”
She adds that the presence of law enforcement is essential.
“They are here for our safety,” Heavey said. “So, their presence is greatly appreciated by everyone who works at the mall and everyone who shops at the mall.”
A request for comment from a Zales manager was not immediately returned.
The crash thief was a man wearing a Rugrats character suit, the incident report says. He arrived at the mall in a white Dodge Ram pickup truck, which police later learned was stolen.
Witnesses told officers that the robber appeared to be carrying a child during the crime, but North Charleston police say they have not received any information indicating that this is true.
No arrests have been made and the investigation is still ongoing.
Anyone with information is asked to call the North Charleston Police Tip Line at 843-607-2076 or Crime Stoppers of the Lowcountry at 843-554-1111.
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(tags for translation)northwoods