Shoplifter shot during hostage situation at mall

March 9, 2012 3:02:09 PM PST
A man was shot and killed by a police officer after taking a woman hostage at Woodbridge Center Mall in New Jersey.

About an hour after the shooting, heavily armed police guarded the doors and crime scene tape surrounded the entrance to Sears.

But, there was something else that stood out.

The witnesses to the shooting were milling around the parking lot.

"Yes, I saw him get shot," said Ashley Love, a witness.

Ashley Love, a shopper, was inside the mall at the time was just feet away from where it happened.

"I heard a lot of arguing. It happened so quick, saw him pull out a pocket knife and that was it," Love said.

It happened at about 5 p.m.

According investigators, a man accused of shoplifting was confronted by 32-year-old Woodbridge Police Officer Edward Barrett Jr., he was off duty at the time but working mall security.

Investigators say a chase ensued.

According to witnesses, Barrett pursued the suspect, 44-yaer-old Andres Garcia, from around the Hollister Store to the entrance of Sears.

The Prosecutor's Office says Garcia grabbed a shopper and held the 62-year-old woman at knife point.

The woman's husband tried to hold onto his wife as Garcia dragged her into the store.

Debra Gafney witnessed the confrontation.

"I saw the security guard run and then all of a sudden I heard him scream something," Gafney said.

And then she heard the shot.

According to Woodbridge Police, Officer Barrett repeatedly warned Garcia to drop the knife before firing the single shot that struck Garcia in the head, killing him.

"I looked up and saw two security guards running and a bunch of people yelling and then the gunshot," said Lindsey Horwath, a witness.

For some shoppers in the mall, it was a brief moment of terror.

What they witnessed and what they heard they'll likely never forget.

"I was standing by the escalator, I went down and saw a dead body, and I was shocked," said Caesar Biswas, a mall employee.

Officer Barrett has been a member of the Woodbridge Police Department for eight years, and currently is assigned to the radio patrol division.

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