Families describe tense moments after shots were fired inside Independence Center

Published: Sep. 5, 2022 at 9:25 PM CDT
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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (KCTV) - Several families took cover inside stores, dressing rooms and restrooms after a shooter opened fire inside a mall on Labor Day at the Independence Center in Independence, Missouri. Police said that, thankfully, no one was hit by the gunfire.

Several women were separated from their children during the chaos as the mall went into lockdown. Customers and employees took cover around 3 p.m.

Eventually, once reunited, members of the Chafa family hugged each other in a parking lot near Independence Center.

“That we all got out alive, I’m thankful for that,” mother Christina Chafa, holding onto her family.

She and one of her two daughters were separated when shots were fired inside the mall.

“I made her stay on the phone with me until I could see her in person,” Christina said. “I made my husband stay on the phone with my youngest until I saw him.”

Her husband, who was babysitting their 2-month-old grandbaby, drove to help reunite their family.

“Being a mother, all I could think about was my baby,” Christina’s daughter Savanna Chafa said while holding her daughter. “All I wanted to do was go home and hug my baby.”

Savanna’s sister, Amanda Chafa, said this is the second shooting she has witnessed in Independence. She was at the SantaCaliGon Days Festival exactly one year ago when four people were shot and survived.

“Being 3 or 5 feet away from the shooter last year, it was scary hearing that again,” Amanda Chafa said. “Everyone saying and screaming, ‘Get down!’ It was really scary. Not knowing where she [Savanna] was. It was horrible.”

Police said they found three shell casings inside the mall. One bullet was lodged in a wall.

Nancy Blansit was also separated from her daughter. They heard gunshots while near a Panda Express in the food court area.

“We heard the loudest gunshots. We took off running,” Blansit said. “Fortunately, she could call me. She was crying. I was calling her trying to keep her calm. I am still in shock. Can’t believe it happened.”

She said she took cover in an empty hallway while her daughter took cover in a restroom.

“It was scary when I was peeking around the corner to see if she was lying there dead,” Blansit said. “I didn’t know.”

Police said the shooting put hundreds of people in danger.

“It is not just when you have a spat between one person and another person, and you are trying to get back at them,” Independence Police Department Public Information Officer Jack Taylor said. “You are putting the whole community at risk.”

Both families went home grateful that no one was hurt.

“It is a blessing,” Savanna Chafa said.

Police interviewed several witnesses and will be reviewing surveillance cameras. At last check, police did not have a suspect in custody.

Previous coverage:

Changes to SantaCaliGon Days address safety concerns after 2021 shooting

Shots fired inside Independence Center, no injuries reported (with timeline of incidents at Independence Center)

Witnesses describe chaos after shooting at SantaCaliGon, some call for increased security