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A man who had just bought something at a suburban New Orleans shopping mall on Christmas Eve was shot to death at close range and a suspect was in custody, police said.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office has said that the victim was James Vaughn, 24, and the suspect is 25-year-old Gary M. Francois.
Vaughn purchased a present for his mother right before the deadly shooting, his grandmother told WDSU.
It happened about 4:21 p.m. Wednesday, less than two hours before the Oakwood Center mall in Gretna was scheduled to close for the holiday, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said.
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Shooting: A distraught woman is comforted outside the food court entrance to the Oakwood Center on Christmas Eve. The shooting left one person dead at the mall in suburban New Orleans, and police say a suspect is in custody
Suspect: Gary M. Francois (pictured) is the suspect in the shooting of 24-year-old James Vaughn, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office has said
The victim had just purchased something from Foot Locker and had turned from the cash register when a man walked to within three or four feet of him and began shooting, Sheriff Normand said
The victim had just purchased something from Foot Locker and had turned from the cash register when a man walked to within three or four feet of him and began shooting, Normand said. No one else was injured.
'Obviously, based on witness accounts, he walked in with purpose of shooting this particular individual,' Normand said when asked if the victim was targeted.
The sheriff said at least three shots were fired and Vaughn was pronounced dead on the scene.
'In the aftermath of the shooting, there was bedlam in the mall,' the sheriff said.
Witness Glenda Hulbert told WWLT 'We were in the mall purchasing the iPhone 6 for my niece, then you heard the shots.'
Another person in the mall, Paul Horton, told the television station 'I've seen a lot of people running and policeman coming in like it was in Cambodia or something, like a war.'
'Clerks say they've seen the victim and perpetrator shop at this store before,' Normand said, according to WDSU.
Mall security, deputies and Gretna police calmed everyone to make for an orderly evacuation, Normand said.
Normand said the shooter was apprehended several blocks from the mall and is being questioned by authorities. No charges were immediately filed.
Normand said authorities were still questioning the man and that he likely would face a charge of second-degree murder.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office spokesman John Fortunato said in a release that both Vaughn and Francois have been arrested multiple times.
He said that 'François has a prior criminal history with arrests 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.
'Vaughn has a prior criminal history with arrests 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.'
Authorities: An Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Deputy patrols as shoppers flee the mall. Sheriff Newell Normand says the shooting happened less than two hours before the mall in Gretna was scheduled to close
First responders: A distraught woman sits on the back of the ambulance as an empty stretcher leaves the food court entrance to the Oakwood Center
Evacuation: Meals sit unfinished on the tables in the food court of the Oakwood Center