WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — When gunfire rang out through Hanes Mall on Tuesday, Shay Jacobs, who has worked in the food court for 12 years, immediately recongized the sound.

“I kept hearing them pops and bangs,” she said. “Once I started hearing them pops and bangs, I knew what it was from my previous experiences in the mall.”  

Jacobs says her experience meant she knew what to do to help make sure others got out safely.

“I was probably one of the last ones to get out because I know the mall inside and out,” Jacobs said. “I was just going through the back hallways to get everybody out because people didn’t know how to get out. People were hiding in the stores, couldn’t get out. They didn’t have a back door, so I showed them how to get out safely.”

Digging through the FOX8 archives, we found violent crime incidents from 2015, 2018 and 2020. The string of violence in 2020 led to new policies requiring teens to be escorted by an adult at certain hours and increased patrolling of the mall by officers and deputies.

In a statement on Wednesday, Sarah Kotelnicki of CBL properties said:

“Our top priority is to provide a comfortable experience for our guests and employees. In addition to employing a full-time third-party security provider, we maintain a close working relationship with the Winston-Salem Police Department including hiring off-duty WSPD officers to patrol during high traffic times. We appreciate their continued partnership as well as their quick response during yesterday’s incident. We evaluate our security procedures on an ongoing basis making adjustments as necessary.”

Lt. Michael Knight of Winston-Salem Police said, “The mall has off duty officers working here Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, so they’ve done somethings on their end for having officers over here. But, we have officers who eat over here, we have patrol cars driving through here very often.” 

Nevertheless, current security measures were unable to stop a shooting that left one person hurt in the mall on Tuesday afternoon. Police say the incident began with a conflict between two people with guns inside the mall. They say the situation escalated, and a male suspect shot the victim in the upper right arm.

Previous incidents

In a 2015 incident, a man was cut with a pocket knife during a fight at the H&M clothing store in Hanes Mall on Sept. 4, 2015. Tyree Trumaine Thomas, 20, of Winston-Salem, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the incident and trespassing, police said.

In 2018, there were two incidents: a fight involving a crowd of teenagers and a gunshot illegally fired by a bail bondsmen pursuing a man with outstanding warrants.

On March 3, 2018, police described a “large fight” involving about 80 to 100 teenagers at the mall on March 3, 2018. Mall security was escorting the teens out when they became disorderly. Others, then, tried to interfere, police said. Three teenagers were arrested, one from the original disruption and two who allegedly interfered after, according to police. Nobody was hurt.

On March 22, 2018, officers responded to a gunshot outside the mall. Authorities said bail bondsmen approached Nathaniel Artillery Taylor, 29, in a vehicle outside the mall to serve him with several outstanding orders for arrest. When Taylor reportedly tried to drive away, one of the bondsmen fired a shot at the vehicle. Taylor later turned himself in. While regulated by the Department of Insurance, bail bondsmen are not authorized to carry weapons. The bondsmen, Thermon Desmond Sellers, of Charlotte, was charged with discharging a weapon into an occupied moving vehicle, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and violation of city ordinance discharge a firearm within the city limits.

It was in 2020, however, that a flurry of violent incidents led the mall, Winston-Salem police and the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office to crack down.

January 2020

An unidentified juvenile was shot in the leg outside the Forever 21 at the mall on Jan. 24, 2020. Police say Isaac Banos Salazar, 18, of Winston-Salem, shot the victim while leaving the store and walking towards the parking lot. Several windows of the Forever 21 were shattered from the gunfire. Salazer was charged with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling, carrying a concealed gun and discharging a firearm in the city limits. Police say the suspect and victim knew each other.

July 2020

A man was arrested after shots were fired in the south lower mall on July 13, 2020. No evidence suggested anyone was shot, but surveillance video showed two groups of men were involved in an argument in the moments leading up to the shooting. During the argument, police say Jameel Ryheim Zimmerman Jr., 20, of High Point, pulled a gun and shot multiple rounds at the other group. Another man then returned fire before both groups left. When officers responded, they saw Zimmerman and a Thomasville man running toward the Carolina Ale House. Police say they matched the description of the suspects in the shooting. Zimmerman was arrested after a chase on foot. He was charged with discharging a firearm within an enclosure to incite fear, possession of marijuana, possession, possession of drug paraphernalia and resisting arrest. The Thomasville man was only charged with resisting arrest. However, the magistrate dismissed that charge citing a lack of evidence.

August 2020

A fight broke out among a crowd of young people—police say at one point there were 50 kids—and three teenagers were arrested on Aug. 1, 2020. The teens were arrested by off-duty officers. They called for backup because while making the arrests, the other kids began causing a disturbance at the mall that prompted people to call police.

November 2020

Another fight, including a gunshot, happened months later on Nov. 21, 2020. Winston-Salem police say two groups of teens started fighting in the parking lot. A gun went off and a bullet grazed the side of one teen’s face.

In response to the spike in violent crime at the mall in 2020, Hanes Mall issued a Youth Escort Policy that required visitors under 18 to be accompanied by an adult both inside and outside the building from 3 p.m. until close every day. The mall warned that those who don’t follow this guidance could be prosecuted for trespassing.

A Hanes Malls spokesperson issued a statement at the time using some of the same wording repeated in the statement issued Tuesday.

“In addition to employing a full-time third-party security provider, we maintain open lines of communication with the Winston Salem Police Department and will continue to do so. Our strong relationship with the WSPD includes having additional police coverage during high traffic times. We evaluate our security measures on an ongoing basis and make adjustments as necessary.”

Despite the increased security, a group of juveniles reportedly assaulted a Greensboro couple out of the TGI Friday’s on Nov. 30, 2020. One of the victims, LaTina Melton said her boyfriend’s daughter was being threatened by a group of juveniles. She said she was talking with several of the teens when they began hitting her and her boyfriend.

“That was somebody’s mother laying there on the pavement being beaten and kicked, somebody’s father,” said Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough. “Let’s say that situation turned from someone taking a pocketbook and beating someone to now shots fired, there’s several people in this community that carry firearms. A bullet does not have eyes, it does not.”

The incident led deputies to join Winston-Salem police in providing additional security at the mall through the holidays.

In a statement, a spokesperson said at the time that the mall’s Youth Escort Policy had been updated, requiring shoppers under 18 years old to be accompanied by an adult after 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and all day Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. That policy remains in place to date.

Police and deputies patrolled the mall together for the first time on Dec. 3, 2020. In addition to hired mall security, off-duty deputies were stationed at some of the main entrances, while officers patrol inside and outside the mall.