BY CLARA KINKEN
Managing News Editor
Two days before national headlines were consumed with news of yet another mass shooting at a bank in Louisville, Kentucky, gun violence erupted eight miles from campus at Christiana Mall. The shots were fired during the escalation of a fight between teenagers in the food court, and resulted in three people with gunshot wounds.
Less than a 15-minute drive from campus, the stores at the mall are known to be frequented by university students not only as customers, but as employees as well, many of whom were working on April 8.
Keyla Valerio, a sophomore environmental studies major, was working at Urban Outfitters the evening of the incident. Due to the store’s distance from the food court, Valerio and her coworkers never heard the gunshots and were unaware of the situation until one of the victims, a 16-year-old who has yet to be publicly identified, wandered into the store.
“From the hallway from the mall you suddenly see about like 15 people scrambling, they are running and it’s not like a normal run, it’s like, ‘Oh they are running from something,’” Valerio said. “And one of those people from that group stops as soon as he goes outside and comes back in from our front door and as he approaches us, it’s me and about three of my other coworkers behind me, he looks at us and he says ‘I’ve been shot.’”
Valerio and her coworkers spent the next half hour performing tourniquets on both of the victim’s legs, which were hemorrhaging blood from three gunshot wounds, while they awaited police and an ambulance. Police officers later told them that their actions saved the victim’s life.
“I wasn’t honestly scared for my life at that moment, my main priority was not to let this boy die in front of us,” Valerio said.
Avery Jones, a junior criminal justice major, was also working at the mall, restocking leggings at Lululemon, when she and her manager noticed a crowd of people running, followed by the blaring of the fire alarm.
“Once the alarm’s like going off and everyone’s like running and saying, ‘We need to get somewhere safe,’ you know it’s a shooting automatically because you’ve seen it so many times and you’re like, ‘There’s no way this is happening to me right now,’” Jones said.
For the following two hours Jones was locked in the back of the store alongside coworkers and customers, awaiting police assistance but not sure how to determine when that help arrived.
“We locked ourselves in the back and then we sat there for I guess two hours until the police came to escort us out,” Jones said. “They came a time before, but we just didn’t know how to know if it was the police or not so it just stressed everybody out, we were literally getting bars in case we needed to defend ourselves from somebody.”
The university’s March for Our Lives (MFOL) chapter organized a protest on April 12 where members spoke out against the local act of violence, as well as the university’s perceived silence in the wake of the shooting.
“A majority of people were extremely upset by the University of Delaware’s lack of response to the recent shooting at Christiana given that Christiana is very close in proximity to the University of Delaware,” Khazra Fatima, a senior international relations major and MFOL president, said during the protest. “If we can regularly receive alerts for thunderstorm warnings, arson attempts or any other range of things that are happening on campus, it’s very feasible for UD to send us a UD Alert for a shooting that’s only 10 minutes away from campus.”
Jones echoed Fatima’s sentiments, claiming a lack of communication immediately after the shooting was particularly dangerous because a police barricade of the mall did not occur “for a while.”
“They definitely should have sent out a UD Alert to stay away from this area and then afterwards they should have sent out some sort of mental health resources knowing how many of us were there at the time,” Jones said.
As of publication, the university has yet to issue a statement regarding the shooting. Students, alongside the rest of the community, continue to grapple with an act of violence that hit too close to home for some.
“Everyone always says, you never think it’s going to be your local school or your local mall, but it just shows that gun violence can really happen anywhere,” Fatima said.