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Shoppers back after fatal shooting at Towson Town Center

ShootingsHomicideNordstrom

As early-morning holiday shoppers descended on Towson Town Center mall Tuesday, Dec. 20, a custodian with a white jug of bleach, a broom, and a power washer was scrubbing the sidewalk to the Fairmount Avenue entrance outside Nordstrom.

Fourteen hours after Rodney Vest Pridget, 19, of the Baltimore area, was shot and killed at around 6:20 p.m. the night before outside of the Nordstrom service area, according to Baltimore County police, mall-goers were aware, but largely undeterred by the previous night's tragedy.

Donna Lewis, 40 of Canton, said she was "shocked." But the news didn't keep her from slipping away to the mall Tuesday morning.

"It didn't, and that's terrible," said Lewis. "It probably should have."

Detectives do not believe the shooting was a random act, but officials said they were not providing additional details due to the continuing investigation. Detectives are investigating a number of leads, including video footage recovered from the mall, police said Tuesday morning. There is no suspect information at this time, police said.

Shortly after the shooting occurred Monday evening, police had blocked vehicle access to several mall entrances. Shoppers were able to enter and exit the mall from Dulaney Valley Road, although traffic was jammed.

As the body lay under a sheet outside Nordstrom, with six days until Christmas, shoppers appeared unaware of the incident.

Meanwhile, police officers trained to identify suspicious behavior canvassed the building, police spokeswoman Elise Armacost said Monday night.

"It's the height of the shopping season," Armacost said. "We are very concerned about safety."

All officers from the Towson precinct were called in to work the case, said Armacost. She declined to say how many spent shell casings were found on the sidewalk.

Later in the evening, police appeared to escort a woman to the crime scene. When she saw the body, she burst into wails audible several hundred feet away.

By 9 p.m., the mall was mostly empty except for a few shoppers.

Fred Hiser, 53, of Towson, said he saw police at the entrances to the garages when he was coming into the mall.

"The most unfortunate thing is that someone lost their life, probably over something absolutely ridiculous," he said.

On Tuesday morning, Sarah Schaffer, 27 of Parkville, said she thought the time of year could have been a contributing factor to the violence.

"It's the holidays, so it's just unfortunately that time of year where these things happen," Schaffer said the morning after the shooting.

Marjorie Chenoweth and a friend trek up to the mall from Baltimore City every morning to walk for exercise, but said she didn't consider staying away after learning of the shooting on the news Monday night.

"I walk here every day and I've never been a witness to any events here," Chenoweth said. "It really doesn't bother me. That was outside. I feel perfectly safe here."

Ashlei Taylor, 27 of Hampden, learned of the shooting while she was at the mall Tuesday. While she didn't feel unsafe, she said the situation gave her a "bad feeling."

"Knowing that someone actually died here makes it a little more heavy of a situation," Taylor said. "It's sad to think that during this season somebody lost their life at the mall, no matter what the circumstances."

The Dec. 19 incident is not the first time the Towson Town Center has seen a fatal shooting.

In February 2005, William Bassett, 58, a popular St. Paul's School science teacher and dean, was killed during a botched robbery, found fatally shot on the fifth floor of a parking garage at the mall.

That killing prompted a Baltimore County law requiring shopping centers with 15 or more retail businesses to install security cameras. The mall also upgraded lighting in the parking lot and added security officers.

Baltimore Sun reporters Jacques Kelly, Alison Knezevich, Andrea F. Siegel and Mary Gail Hare contibuted to this story.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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