- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 24, 2015

A fight between two rival groups who went to a North Carolina shopping mall on Christmas Eve looking for trouble escalated into a gunbattle that ended with an off-duty policeman killing a teenage rapper who had pointed a gun at him.

Chief Kerr Putney of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said he didn’t think the shooting was gang-related but the two feuding groups knew each other.

“This is not a random act of violence. This is something that happened between two parties that were beefing back and forth,” he said at a Thursday evening news conference. They used guns “as a means to settle the dispute.”

The manager of Journey’s shoe store in Northlake Mall told CNN that the gunfight began when a group of people “ganged up” to attack a man near the store shortly after 2 p.m.

Witnesses told Charlotte news outlets that they heard up to a dozen shots, prompting panicked crowds, the intervention of Officer Thomas Ferguson and the death of Daquan Westbrook.

Chief Putney said Mr. Westbrook was carrying a gun and pointed it at Officer Ferguson when he tried to break up the gunfight. The officer then killed Mr. Westbrook with his service-issue weapon.

Officer Ferguson has been placed on paid administrative leave, as is routine in officer-involved shootings.

Several guns were found at the scene, Chief Putney said.

Mr. Westbrook, 18, was a rapper who performed as “Donkey Cartel” and released a mixtape titled “Convicted Felon With a Weapon,” the cover of which shows him in a prison cell wearing an orange jumpsuit. According to the Daily News, one of his songs was called “Can’t Be Touched.”

“Westbrook’s friend at the scene told reporters he was going to be a new father. He had just graduated high school in 2014, according to his Twitter,” the New York Daily News reported.

Mr. Westbrook received emergency aid from medics at the scene, but was quickly pronounced dead, officials said.

As emergency crews rushed to the scene, there was gridlock inside and outside the mall as people fled and/or hunkered down inside stores on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

“It was wild. I heard the first shot and I thought, ‘Wait. What was that?’ And kind of like started turning around and walking and saw this huge line of people — wave of people coming — and I thought a bomb was about to go off, and I just took off,” Don Willis, who works as a valet at the mall, told The Associated Press.

According to Charlotte police, no officers were shot, though they weren’t sure whether any other civilians were. In the crowd panic, a woman reportedly went into labor.

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