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ANCHORAGE - A woman was wounded and a car shot up in a dispute that started at one of Anchorage's busiest shopping malls and escalated into wild gunfire down a busy street jammed with midday traffic.
The shooting involving people in two vehicles at around noon Saturday was at least the third this year at Dimond Center, which has beefed up its security in recent months.
"I think we're dealing with a huge Anchorage problem that's spilling over to commercial properties that have nothing to do with (the disputes)," said Chris Heitstuman, the mall security director. "It's just tragic people feel like they have to resort to this."
A mall security worker in a pickup truck was in the Dimond Center parking lot when he heard shots and spotted the two vehicles, including one SUV, about 50 yards away in the lot's entrance, Heitstuman said.
The vehicles tore out of the mall parking lot and sped south on the Old Seward Highway. At some point, the SUV, one of its rear tires shredded, pulled into a Chevrolet dealership just south of the mall. All three windows on the passenger side were partially or totally blown out and at least six bullet holes could be seen in the vehicle's body.
The injured woman, who police said looked to be in her early 20s, got out and walked around for a few moments, then lay down on the ground, police and witnesses said.
"She was on the sidewalk in a great amount of pain," said patrol Sgt. David Koch said. "She had lost a lot of blood."
Police said three young men in the SUV told officers they had been shopping at the mall and got into a confrontation with another man in a gold Mitsubishi Galant as they were leaving. They said the man pulled out a pistol and started firing at them, Koch said.
The trio did not say what the confrontation was about, Koch said, but at least one knew a man in the other vehicle. Police got the man's name and were looking for him Saturday, Koch said.
"The young man who fired these shots, all indications are he has a habit of settling drug disputes by shooting up cars," Koch said. "But the people in the vehicle said that's not what it's about."
As the three left the dealership in a taxi, they told police they "would just take care of it themselves," Koch said.
Koch said 23 bullet casings from two different-caliber weapons were found at the mall parking lot. Paiz said that it was unclear whether shots had been fired from both vehicles.