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mall witnesses photo 1 24 Photo by Anthony Caciopo

These representatives at the Humane Society booth on the upper level of Orland Square Mall saw the victim immediately after he was shot on the ground floor behind them. “We heard five gunshots,” said Anthony Berta (center). “At first, we thought it was a construction barricade falling down but then we heard the remaining four and could see the flash. The kid (victim) went running that way, and that’s ultimately where he ended up,” deceased. Berta was working the booth all day with his colleagues Michael Wang (left) left and Brayan Perla (right).

By Anthony Caciopo

Stroll the upper level at Orland Square Mall and you’re almost bound to encounter Brayan Perla, Anthony Berta and Michael Wang staffing a booth for the Humane Society of the United States.

The representatives make a point of engaging almost every passerby, seeking donations for the Washington.-based nonprofit organization focused on animal-related cruelties.

And because of their position at a railing overlooking the first floor, they had a view of at least some of the tragedy that unfolded at the mall Monday evening when 18-year-old Javon Britton was gunned down by Jakharr Williams, according to police.

“We were here, just doing our normal thing for the Humane Society, and suddenly we heard five gunshots,” said Perla. “At first, we thought it was one of the construction barricades falling apart, but then we started seeing everybody run.”

Directly beneath their position on the upper level is a temporary rectangular wall of boards on the ground floor that encloses an escalator being rehabbed. It was one of the tall wooden panels that Perla and Berta thought may have fallen when they heard the first of the shots.

Berta said the confrontation between the two men appeared to begin at the nearby ground-floor food court, within easy sight of the Humane Society booth.

“It started at the food court and came over to right here,” said Berta, gesturing to the Swarovski store below, an upscale retailer of cut crystal, watches and home décor.

“We heard the remaining four shots, and you could see the flash (of gunfire),” he said. “It was happening right there, and then the kid (the victim) was running that way and that’s ultimately where he ended up, over by the escalator.”

The escalator described by Berta is about 200 feet away from their position, a different escalator than the one under repair just below their booth. The base of the escalator is outside an H & M store.

“When people started to run, I didn’t know what to do,” said Perla. “I was trying to get out, but because everyone was just scattering around you really don’t know exactly where it’s (the gunfire) coming from.”

None of the men at the booth saw the shooter, but Perla said he heard people say the gunman might be “stuck” in one of the stores. That speculation was unfounded.

Perla said he and his colleagues felt particularly vulnerable because employees of neighboring stores began shutting their doors and/or security gates.

“But we were outside (in the mall, unprotected) because we don’t have a gate,” he said.

Perla, Berta and Chang eventually ended up near the escalator where the victim fell, mortally wounded.

“We went to the middle of the mall. We saw someone on the floor and medics were helping the guy. He was already down.

Britton was transported to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was pronounced dead.

“We saw the victim and everybody kept running away,” Perla said. “The shooter was nowhere to be seen.”

“We don’t know which direction the shooter ran,” said Berta. “When I saw the victim, he was already on the ground, being treated for his wounds.”

Berta said that he had noticed a higher police presence at the mall earlier in the day.

“They were here, walking around, two guys at a time,” he said. “I don’t know if it was related.”

 

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