Two people were injured and Valley Plaza was placed on lockdown Monday after reports of shots fired near the mall’s food court shortly after 6 p.m.
Employees and others said they heard gunshots following a commotion that one witness said involved a group of more than half a dozen people.
Bakersfield Police Department Chief Lyle Martin called the event "an isolated incident between two groups" and that the agency believed it was not part of an attempt to shoot up the mall. There was no word on whether the incident may have been gang-related.
A BPD news release issued after 8:30 p.m. said the victims, ages 15 and 20, were taken to a local hospital for treatment. Both suffered injuries that were not life-threatening, it added.
The department described the suspect as a black man wearing a gray, hooded sweatshirt. It said he fled the area after the shooting and that the investigation continues.
According to the news release, the suspect was involved in an altercation with one of the victims near the food court when the suspect "removed a firearm and fired multiple times, striking the victim."
Tillys employee Adam Teasdale said he heard eight shots after an argument broke out involving perhaps eight people in their 20s and 30s. He said the incident escalated quickly.
A manager at another store in the mall said he counted just three shots from near the food court. He said police soon came by instructing him to get people out of the store safely.
"They told me to make sure everybody goes," said the manager, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the news media.
A customer getting her hair done at MasterCuts said she heard four shots soon after she saw large numbers of people run in and out of the mall through an entrance near the Red Robin restaurant.
"All the electronic doors came down," said the customer, Beth Ferguson. "It was pretty scary."
A worker at another store said shoppers could be seen rushing out of the mall right after the shooting. She said employees called security and were told to close the store's gates.
The mall's management and security offices could not be reached for comment.
By 7 p.m., BPD was keeping witnesses inside the mall and letting people exit only if they did not have firsthand information about the incident.
Also Monday night, BPD blocked the rear part of a parking lot at the Carl's Jr. near the mall.
An employee said the restaurant was briefly locked down. Shortly thereafter, people could be seen dining inside.
Chief Martin added he was "extremely proud" of the department's response and thankful for the help from the Kern County Sheriff's Office, which sent deputies to the mall "without being asked."
The department will continue to look for those responsible and that "this will not be taken lightly,” he said.
Anyone with information about the incident was encouraged to call BPD Detective J. Diederich at 326-3558, or to call the department at 732-7111.