Manhunt after major Westfield lockdown

Westfield Marion in Adelaide has been evacuated on June 23, 2024. Picture: Supplied
Westfield Marion in Adelaide has been evacuated on June 23, 2024. Picture: Supplied

Police are hunting for three boys after a violent altercation in a major Adelaide shopping centre triggered a lockdown and massive emergency response.

The chaos kicked off about 3pm on Sunday afternoon after the three boys allegedly approached another group of boys at the Westfield Marion centre’s food court armed with “expandable batons”.

South Australian Police Assistant Commissioner Scott Duval said a scuffle occurred and there were reports of a knife.

The violence triggered Westfield’s emergency lockdown and evacuation procedures, with alarms blaring throughout the centre and major storefronts locking their doors to keep shoppers safe.

Heavily armed specialist tactical officers stormed the centre and swept through it across the afternoon to find the alleged offenders.

Assistant Commissioner Scott Duval said the boys had not yet been located, but he expressed confidence they would be found.

Westfield Marion in Adelaide has been evacuated on June 23, 2024. Picture: Supplied
Westfield Marion in Adelaide has been evacuated on June 23, 2024. Picture: Supplied

“These three boys chased the other boys through the centre, and through the CCTV we were able to see they entered the David Jones store and that was the first part of our focus of where we put our specialist attention, to start clearing the centre to ensure the safety of all people could be ensured,” he said.

“At this stage, we know the identity of the two victims.

“I would say that it is clear from the vision this is not a random attack.

“The boys would appear to be known to each other but obviously we are in the early days of the investigation of the incident and we have investigators here again reviewing the CCTV, trying to make sure the information we have can be verified in some way.”

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Armed police have swarmed the shopping centre at Marion. Picture: NewsWire / Brenton Edwards

He said there were no reports of injuries from the altercation, but a 70-year-old woman and teenage girl had suffered injuries during the evacuation process.

SA Ambulance confirmed it had treated two patients from the scene.

Video of the terrifying moments quickly circulated across social media.

Heavily armed STAR officers storm into the centre and sirens can be heard going off in the centre as shoppers scramble to flee.

Other footage from the centre posted to social media shows people locked down and waiting in the Target staffroom.

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Tania Reckwell greets her son Zac after he was locked down in the Westfield Marion. Picture: NewsWire / Brenton Edwards

A photo from the scene shows a billboard warning: “Armed Offender: Escape, Hide, Tell”.

One shopper, posting to social media, writes: “I’m in here, they are evacuating everyone in here”.

Photos from the scene show armed police officers inside the building and worried shoppers who have fled the centre.

Another shopper told reporters of the chaos that unfolded.

“We could just saw random people running everywhere, and my friend grabbed me and we just ran out here,” he said.

Assistant Commissioner Duval said the boys would need to face “the consequences of their actions”.

“I encourage these boys to hand themselves into police,” he said.

“Perhaps they did not intend for this to occur but they need to understand the consequences of their actions and that those consequences involve people safety and that is our number one priority.”

He said the motivation behind the alleged attack was still unclear.

He said investigators were scouring CCTV to piece together a clear vision of what had happened and who was involved.

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Retail workers wait outside the Westfield Marion Shopping Centre on Sunday. Picture: NewsWire / Brenton Edwards
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Relieved customers leave Westfield Marion. Picture: NewsWire / Brenton Edwards

Numerous stores, including Woolworths and Rebel Sport, immediately shuttered their doors on the alert to keep shoppers safe.

One shopper, writing to social media, said the scene turned into “absolute bedlam” after the alert sounded.

“The alert was so quiet and took until the 3rd one to realise,” she said.

“We were in the movies with the two kids and it wasn’t until the third one she said weapon David Jones and so shook up.

“We ran out the fire escape as one of the first from the whole cinemas and were left to find an escape. Just opening doors to find which one gets to the carport.”

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Chloe Andrews posted to Instagram from a locked up Kmart stock room during the Westfield Marion lockdown. Picture: Instagram

Chloe Andrews posted to social media from inside a locked up Kmart stock room.

“I came to Marion to buy a new bin, and it’s ended with myself and like 200 other people in Kmart’s stock room as there is someone armed with a weapon in Marion,” she said.

“So anyone thinking of heading this way...just don’t. I’m petrified”.

The last shoppers and retailers were evacuating around 6pm on Sunday.

The shopping centre is owned by Scentre Group, the same company that runs Westfield Bondi, the scene of a horrific mass murder event in April.

In a statement, the company said the centre would remain closed on Sunday, but would reopen for trade on Monday.

“The safety of our customers, business partners and people is our highest priority,” a Westfield Marion spokesman said.

“Our team have been providing their full support to SA Police this afternoon who attended an incident at Westfield Marion. For a brief period SA Police were in full control of the site.

“SA Police have since advised it is safe for customers to leave the centre.

Police took control of the Westfield centre for a brief period on Sunday. Picture: NewsWire / Brenton Edwards
Police took control of the Westfield centre for a brief period on Sunday. Picture: NewsWire / Brenton Edwards

“We are not aware of any injuries. Any inquiries at this stage should be directed to SA Police.

“Please note, Westfield Marion closed at 5pm today, in line with normal trading hours, and will re-open for trade as normal tomorrow.”

Assistant Commissioner Duval praised Scentre for its emergency procedures and said the heavy police response was “absolutely” justified.

“We live in uncertain times and it is our job to ensure community safety,” he said.

He also said the Bondi massacre had informed Sunday’s response.

South Australia Assistant Commissioner Scott Duval addresses media about the Marion incident on June 23, 2024. Picture: 9News
South Australia Assistant Commissioner Scott Duval addresses media about the Marion incident on June 23, 2024. Picture: 9News

“These types of reactions to these incidents very much are influenced by incidents like Bondi,” he said.

On April 13, Joel Cauchi rampaged through the Bondi centre attacking shoppers with a knife.

He murdered six people and put 12 people, including a baby, in hospital.

Westfield Marion is the largest shopping centre in South Australia, located about 15km from the Adelaide CBD in the city’s southern suburbs.

Police conducted an active armed offender training drill at the centre in mid-June.

“The active armed offender scenario, Wednesday week ago, is very much about training for this kind of activity,” Assistant Commissioner Duval said.