2 Dead In Deptford Mall Shootout 2 Also Hurt In Robbery; Suspects Are Sought

Posted: August 06, 1996

DEPTFORD — An armed robber and a bank customer were killed yesterday and an armored-car guard and a teenage bystander were seriously wounded in a wild gun battle that followed a holdup just inside the Deptford Mall in Gloucester County.

FBI spokeswoman Linda Vizi said a holdup man - armed with a 9mm semiautomatic pistol - opened fire on a Brooks armored-car guard at about 3:30 p.m. near a set of double doors several feet from the Midlantic Bank on the mall's second level.

The gunman and the guard fired up to 20 shots in the mall while people ducked for cover, witnesses said. The suspect grabbed a bag of money, but was mortally wounded in the exchange and collapsed about 50 feet away, authorities said.

One bullet hit the guard in the abdomen; another struck him in the chin, paramedics said. He struggled into the bank and told workers to ``get 911, get help,'' Vizi added. The guard, Rudolph Matlack, 21, of Williamstown, Gloucester County, was airlifted to Cooper Hospital-University Medical Center, where he was in critical condition last night.

Two bystanders also were shot in the gunfire. Nicholas Morris, 17, of Clayton, Gloucester County, was fatally wounded as he walked through the mall entrance to cash a check at the bank. He fell back through the doors and crumbled to the sidewalk outside.

The other bystander, Maureen Lavin, 15, of Swedesboro, Gloucester County, was coming up steps 100 feet away from the shooting and was struck in the forehead by a bullet, paramedics said. The teen was airlifted to Cooper Hospital-University Medical Center, where she was in critical condition last night.

Gloucester County Prosecutor Harris Y. Cotton said two or three suspects - in addition to the one who was killed - may have participated in the holdup. One was seen by customers fleeing the mall.

Police found a maroon Honda believed to have been used in the holdup on the parking lot of the Bally's health spa across from the mall. They found a gun on the front seat. The car, which was registered in New York, had been stolen July 22 from Cherry Hill.

At least two men were stopped for questioning after the incident and were seen being led away in handcuffs to police cars. They were later released.

Officials at Brooks Armored Car Service headquarters in Wilmington were still gathering information and had no immediate comment.

The fatal holdup came 11 years after a shooting at the Springfield Mall in Delaware County claimed the lives of two people and left eight people wounded. Sylvia Seegrist, a local woman with a history of mental illness, opened fire with a .22-caliber carbine.

At the Deptford Mall, the shooting started after Matlack picked up money at the bank and headed toward the mall exit, where he was confronted by the robber. Another guard was in the armored car and did not leave it.

A witness, King Lee Dunlap, 21, of Vineland, Cumberland County, said the gunman fired on Matlack first, setting off the gun battle. He said about 20 rounds were fired as he took cover.

After Matlack found refuge inside the bank, employees immediately locked its doors.

The shooting created panic across the mall - a place where many people had come yesterday to escape the day's heat and humidity. Bullets flew. Shell casings hit the floor. Dozens of people took cover, hid from the gunfire, and looked for loved ones.

Edward ``James'' Boyle, 21, of Williamstown, said he heard the shots and immediately ran out of the upper level of the Sears department store and into the mall to find his mother.

``The first thing I thought of was my mom,'' he said, tears in his eyes. ``I could feel the adrenalin.''

As he searched for his mother, he said he saw the wounded teenage girl who lay across some steps. ``The poor girl. She was so beautiful,'' he said. ``She had blue eyes. . . . It just makes you ask, `Why? Why?' ''

Boyle found his mother unharmed.

Christina Carrington, 29, of Wenonah, Gloucester County, was shopping in Sears for a backpack for her 8-month-old daughter, Bethany, when she said she heard ``two or three shots, and then a pause and then, bang-bang-bang.''

``My baby was in the backpack and we ran to an employee entrance,'' said Carrington, who was trying to pay for the backpack at a checkout counter at the time. ``It echoed like you couldn't imagine. It sounded like it was right next to us.'' She didn't pay for the merchandise for another half hour.

Joy Celli, 18, a Sears saleswoman from Barrington, Camden County, said she saw people frantically rushing into Sears from the inside of the second floor of the mall.

``People were screaming and running into the stockroom,'' she said. Celli said she heard three shots that ``sounded like firecrackers,'' then a pause and ``several'' more shots.

Connie Stuthard, 55, of Williamstown, was shopping in Sears when she heard ``seven or eight shots. . . . Everybody ran into the mall from the upper level. Everyone was running for their life,'' she said. ``I grabbed a baby and her coach - the baby was by herself - and I took her to the back of the store where the freezers are.

``All I heard was people yelling, `He's [the shooter] coming, He's coming!' I was afraid somebody was going to shoot,'' she said. ``I was going to put the baby in the freezer to protect her.

``You hear about things like this, but you never think you'll be in the middle of it.''

Susan Gulyas, 18, a Deptford-area resident and former waitress at Ruby Tuesday at the mall, said she saw a man with a white duffle bag, white shirt and red bandana running ``really fast out of the mall. He had a gun pointing backward,'' she said.

``I just thought he was a shoplifter. After he left, I heard three shots.''

Gulyas quit her waitressing job at Ruby Tuesday yesterday, she said, because of the shooting.

Deptford Township Councilman Walter Berglund said he scuffled with the same suspect, wrestling a white duffle bag from him. The man pointed a shotgun in the councilman's face. ``He said he was going to kill me if I didn't let him go,'' said Berglund.

The councilman gave him the bag, let him go, and watched him leave the mall and get into a maroon Honda parked in the fire lane. The car wouldn't start at first, then caught. Berglund took down the license number. The car was later found across the street at Bally's health spa.

Shoppers and mall employees were stunned by the shooting. Many people went to the phone for help.

A worker from Carlton Cards, whose store is located near where the shooting location, said she was working in the office when ``a woman, her mother and two small children ran into the stockroom screaming, `Call 911! Call 911.' ''

The Carlton Cards employee, who declined to be identified, called 911. She said police arrived about a minute later. ``And there was a team of medical people on the girl near the top of the step,'' she said. The employee said she saw security people throw a tarp over the gunman's body, which was in front of the photo booth.

The photo booth is located near the mall entrance where the armored car was was parked.

When the shootout started, Mike Waterman, 20, was visiting a friend who works at Kinney Shoes, near the robbery site. ``It was like bam, bam, bam,'' said Waterman, who works at a store near the mall. ``We couldn't believe this was happening here. This is Deptford.''

As he left the store, Waterman saw the wounded Lavin lying on the floor and approached her, he said. ``We saw her lying there,'' said Waterman, still visibly shaken two hours after the gun battle. ``Her hair was all soaked with blood. It was gruesome. I thought she was dead.''

Wendy Potosky, 20, a clerk at The Limited, which is downstairs from the shooting site, also heard the gunshots but said business continued at her store for a while - until FBI agents told the six clerks on duty there to evacuate the store and pull down their metal store-front gates.

Potosky and her coworkers were left in the store for about two hours, waiting for a police escort out of the building, she said. Workers stuck in stores throughout the mall called each other, hoping for information.

``It was pretty scary,'' Potosky said. ``We didn't know what was going on.''

At about 5:25 p.m., Potosky said a mall security guard escorted her out of the building down the main corridor - a route that made Potosky nervous. ``I don't know why they did it that way if they thought someone was running around with a gun,'' she said.

Hours later, a mall store owner said he expected to reopen today. Mall officials couldn't be reached.

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