Several shoppers at Fashion Fair said Saturday that they were being extra careful as they walked a mall that has seen a recent spike in gun violence.
“Oh, it’s in the back of mind, that’s for sure,” said Sandra Gamez, who was at the mall with partner Jazmine Garcia.
For generations, the shopping center on Shaw Avenue has been a gathering place for seniors, teenagers and families.
But longtime shoppers also admit things have changed over the years as violent crime has invaded their favorite shopping destination.
“When I was a kid I used to come here with my cousins and nothing happened like what we see happening now,” Sara Phipps said. “I worry that this problem is going to move farther north to River Park. It seems like we can’t have anything nice anymore because someone is going to ruin it.”
Phipps, who was with her daughter, said she didn’t plan on spending a lot of time at the mall Saturday. She had one stop to make and she was leaving right after that. No casual shopping.
“We are not going to walk the mall like we used to, because you just never know what may happen,” Phipps said.
Suspects still sought
Two weeks ago, shots were fired as two groups of men fought outside the area near the Shoe Palace, Lush, Sephora and Morphe stores.
Police said there may have been a potential victim, but by the time officers arrived, the potential victim fled. Officers did find evidence of gunfire. The glass doors of the mall were struck three times. No bystanders were injured.
Three suspects were identified by police and so far, one suspect has been arrested.
A shooting also happened inside the mall in January after a man got into an argument with a group of men. One of the men in the group, pulled out a gun and began shooting but did not hit anyone, police said.
In addition, there have been two other incidents of smash-and-grab thefts.
Most recently, Fresno police arrested three people after one of them allegedly flashed a gun at another person.
The man, who was with two others, was part of a group that initially was stopped for smoking in a smoking-prohibited area.
Although Fashion Fair officials could not be reached for comment Saturday, several mall security officers could be clearly seen inside the building.
Thinking of an ‘exit plan’
Gamez admits to being cautious wherever they go, whether it’s a movie theater, concert or the mall.
“Having a lot of people around me gets me thinking about what would be my exit plan if we have to get out in a hurry,” Gamez said.
Kimberly Bischoff, who like the others lives in Fresno, said she didn’t know about the shootings until recently. But it didn’t stop her from coming to the mall. It was her 11-year-old daughter’s birthday and she was eager to spend her birthday money.
“I thought about what’s happened, but I also don’t want to live in fear,” Bischoff said. “If anything, I will keep an eye on my daughter and maybe even keep her closer to me.”