GRETNA, LA (WVUE) - Police identified the victim and suspect in the fatal shooting at the Oakwood Mall on Christmas Eve.
According to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, 25-year-old Gary M. Francois is suspected of shooting 24-year-old James Vaughn in the Foot Locker at the Oakwood Mall.
Police say they chased Francois on foot from the shopping center to the intersection of Cherry Blossom and Wright Avenue where he was arrested without incident.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said it's a miracle that no one else was hit when the Francois opened fire. "It was bedlam within the mall because of the shots ringing out and everybody hearing it, it was very crowded in here," Normand said. "We don't know what drove this or what was the motive."
Witnesses said Vaughn was at the mall shopping with his family when he was killed.
Homicide investigators believe Vaughn was targeted by Francois.
According to police video shows Francois standing outside the Foot Locker waiting for Vaughn to checkout at the counter. Police say the video shows that once Vaughn turned away from the Counter, Francois entered the store with his weapon drawn and immediately shot and killed Vaughn. He then fled into a nearby women's clothing store and through a parking lot while being chased by police.
Moments after the shooting, mall security began ushering shoppers outside. As they ran, some left behind personal belongings like purses and cell phones. Donna Hoffee lost track of her kids and grandchildren during the mayhem. "My whole family was there and we all separated, different parts of the mall," Hoffee said.
During our interview, they re-united. Hoffee says she's thankful her family wasn't injured.
Brittany Jennings, who works at the mall, is also glad she made it out ok, but she's still very shaken because of what she witnessed. "I just saw people screaming, a few people were stopping and crying, I'm not sure if they knew the person that got shot," Jennings said. "I ran, I ran with the crowd because I wasn't sure what to do so I just ran with the crowd."
Francois and Vaughn both have prior criminal histories. Police say Francois has been arrested for aggravated battery, resisting arrest, disturbing the peace, simple criminal damage, simple battery, numerous counts of unruly and uncontrollable along with a number of traffic attachments.
Police say Vaughn has been arrested for numerous counts of parole violation, illegal carrying a concealed weapon, being a felon in possession of a firearm, possession of cocaine, aggravated battery, resisting arrest, simple assault, aggravated criminal damage, simple battery, theft and numerous counts of contempt of court.
Anyone with information on this incident is asked to contact the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Homicide Division at 504-364-5300 or CRIMESTOPPERS at 504-822-1111.