By Alton Mitchell
Living in East Central Alabama there is only a handful of local shopping malls that residents can find themselves embracing. Chambers County residents can find indoor shopping malls in nearby Auburn, Lagrange, or Columbus. On Saturday one of those malls became a very scary location as gunfire exploded at the mall claiming the life of one man.
On the eve of Easter many residents ventured out to the local shopping destinations to find those last minute Easter outfits and other casual weekend shopping. Peachtree Mall in Columbus, GA is a very popular destination for Easter outfits. On Saturday night just as many were wrapping up their shopping about 8:00 p.m. Shopping at the popular area mall exploded into a scene of chaos.
Some type of altercation occurred near the main entrance and the food court of the mall. Several gunshots rang out. On the heels of terrorist attacks in Brussels earlier in the week many residents feared the worse and a scene of chaos erupted at the packed mall as shoppers hearing the barrage of gunshots began to run for cover in all directions of the mall. Stores began to lock their doors and shield customers in for safety.
As the chaotic scene began to wind down as the shots ended a more gruesome scene began to arise. Where the shots had originate lay a young man suffering from several gunshot wounds. By the time police and emergency officials arrived and transported the victim to a local hospital where he passed away from his injuries.
The victim was identified as 24-year-old Anthony Meredith, of Columbus. Prior to the shooting Saturday Meredith was shot in the cheek in October at a residence in East Columbus. In addition to Meredith having a recent history with gunfire Peachtree Mall also had one in recent times. The shooting on Saturday was the third gunfire related incident at the mall in a month.
Incidents at the mall included an incident in late February in which a gun discharged near a kiosk in the center of the mall. That gun was reported to have been in the pocket of a customer who police were unable to apprehend. Less than a week after that a 16-year-old girls was shot in the back on March 4th in the parking lot the mall and a second individual was pistol whipped. This past weekend police were able to arrest their suspect in that shooting.
Mall officials have stated that the mall is still safe and say the incidents are isolated in nature. The mall is also in the process of stepping up security measures at the 40-year-old facility. Current measures include uniformed security officers both inside and outside the mall, uniformed off duty police officer, and security cameras among other measures. New security measures at the mall have not yet been fully disclosed. Police have also named an 18-year-old suspect in the Saturday shooting, but have not yet arrested Xzavaien Jones for the incident.