Shoppers at suburban Oakbrook Center recounted the moments after a shooting at the popular mall left at least five injured two days before Christmas.
Moments after stepping foot inside the busy mall, a brother and sister said they immediately ran for cover.
"For a second I thought 'there is no way this is actually happening.' I thought they were fireworks or something," said George, a shopper from Arlington Heights.
His sister, Mia, said the manager of a store at Oakbrook Center directed them to the back storage closet where they locked the door for a group of shoppers to hide.
According to authorities, a police officer that was working at Nordstrom overheard gunfire at approximately 5:44 p.m. The gunfire originated from a corridor between the store and Ann Taylor, authorities said.
Police say that two individuals were seen firing gunshots at one another, sending shoppers fleeing into stores for cover.
When the officer moved to confront the suspects, they both attempted to run into the Nordstrom store to flee the area. One of the suspects was taken into custody, and the second individual, whom police say was injured during the shooting, was taken to an area hospital where he underwent surgery.
Kat, who started working at the mall's Paper Source just two weeks ago, said she heard the gunshots and immediately locked the store's doors.
"It sounded like it was right outside the store, but it didn’t register with me right away what it was until everyone started running," she said.
The woman noted that she was raised by two police officers and felt prepared for the event, trying to keep the customers calm while inside.
"Me and another gentleman, who was a customer, we stepped up and had an unspoken thing like 'ok, we got this,'" Kat said.
In parking lots surrounding the outdoor mall, some families had long-awaited reunions while others waited for word that their loved ones were safe.
"How do you explain that to an 8-year-old that mommy’s locked down in a theater because they have an active shooter," said Rich, a shopper from Elmhurst.
A third person involved in the shooting may still be inside of the mall, and SWAT teams are going store-to-store to clear the facility and to ascertain whether the suspect is still inside.
At least three other individuals were struck by gunfire, according to officials.
Two women, both in their 40s, were each shot one time, as well as a woman in her 20s, police said. Another woman in her 20s suffered a broken angle while attempting to flee the scene.
More than 100 police officers are still on the scene, including multiple SWAT teams. NBC's Sky 5 helicopter observed SWAT teams entering stores as they continued to work to clear the mall.
Police say officials have created a family reunification website to bring parents and children who were separated back together at the Marriott hotel across the street.
Brookfield Properties, the management company that runs the mall, issued a statement thanking police for responding to what they termed an “isolated incident.”
“Tonight’s isolated incident is extremely upsetting for our shopping community,” officials said in the statement. “We are grateful for our partners at the Oak Brook Police Department for their diligence in leading this developing investigation.”
NBC’s Sky 5 helicopter captured the scene around the shopping center on Thursday night, with emergency vehicles parked all over the complex on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
An eyewitness told NBC 5 that the mall was placed on lockdown at approximately 6 p.m. because of the incident, and said she was forced to hide in the stockroom of Nordstrom's.
NBC 5's Vi Nguyen was outside of Oakbrook Center shortly after the shooting:
Police have shut down traffic in both directions on 22nd Street between Route 83 and Jorie Boulevard. Route 83 is also closed between 22nd Street and Butterfield Road, according to authorities.
Check back for updates as more details emerge.