Shots fired in shopping center robbery

About 100 afternoon shoppers were stuck in a shopping center parking lot Wednesday and a school was placed on lockdown after a security officer fired shots at two men with guns who tried to rob a pharmacy, officials said.

The incident unfolded about 3:15 p.m., police said, in the Loch Raven Shopping Center in the 1700 block of E. Northern Parkway. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said two men brandishing handguns attempted to rob the pharmacy, and a special police officer working there pulled out a weapon and fired. It did not appear that anyone was struck.

Special police are security officers commissioned by the city or state to arrest people within certain areas, and police were working to verify the officer's status.

One suspect was arrested by a city police detective who was in the area, and police were searching for a second man, Guglielmi said.

The crime scene stretched from the supermarket parking lot, through a gas station, and to the busy intersection of East Northern Parkway and Loch Raven Boulevard. Shoppers, who police said were potential witnesses, were blocked from leaving the shopping center as more than a dozen detectives investigated. Many grumbled that they had picked a bad time to run errands.

"How long does a chicken keep in a hot car?" one asked.

A woman, who did not want to give her name because she witnessed part of the incident, said she saw a "pudgy" white man with a heavy knit mask over his face run from the store, as what looked like an undercover police officer gave chase. She said he pulled the mask off as a car squealed out of the parking lot without him.

Another woman who was inside the Mars supermarket said store employees rushed to the front of the store and yelled, "Don't kill him, don't kill him."

Police said nearby Mercy High School was briefly placed on lockdown as a precaution.

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