(Reuters) -- A man was shot in the leg during a fight inside a crowded Wisconsin mall on Saturday afternoon, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, and authorities were searching for the assailant, police said.
%shareLinks-quote="Witnesses saw several young men involved in a fight inside East Towne Mall in Madison, police spokesman Joel DeSpain said." type="spreadWord"%
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One pulled out a handgun and fired at least one round, striking a 19-year-old who was part of the initial dispute, DeSpain said. He was transported to a hospital with a non life-threatening wound, he said.
DeSpain also said that a mall employee's leg was hit by a bullet that had ricocheted, though the worker was unscathed.
The incident, less than a week before Christmas when many shoppers were rushing to buy gifts, comes at a time when many Americans are fearful of random attacks in public places, a concern that has flared in the wake of recent shootings by suspected Islamic militants in California and Paris.
Ricardo Franco, a Madison Police Department officer, said gunfire was reported inside the mall around 2:50 p.m. (2050 GMT).
Officers have since cleared the 840,000-square-foot shopping center with more than 100 retailers, and were searching for a suspect, DeSpain said.
Local sportswriter Evan Flood wrote on Twitter he was 20 feet away when "a brawl" broke out and then he heard gunfire.
"It lasted like 3-4 seconds until the gun went off," he wrote, adding that "they all ran" afterwards.
Store employee Lester Callahan told the newspaper shoppers ran into his store in a panic and some hid under garment racks.
The Journal also cited Callahan as saying that some shoppers sought refuge in an employee break room amid orders from mall officials to close down and evacuate shoppers.
Madison police later tweeted that the mall was expected to reopen shortly.