A suspected shoplifter at a New Jersey mall was shot and killed by a township police officer Thursday after he grabbed and held a woman hostage when he was confronted by store security.
A law enforcement source tells NBC New York the man was killed by a single shot at the Hollister store on the upper level of the Sears wing at the Woodbridge Center Mall on Route 1.
Store security confronted the man, identified as Andres Garcia of Paterson, after suspecting that he may have shoplifted one or more items at the trendy clothing store, according to the source. An off-duty Woodbridge Township police officer who was working as a mall security officer at the time, identified as Edward J. Barrett, was dispatched to the store.
When Barrett got to the store, the suspect, who apparently had a knife, began to run away, the prosecutor's office said in a statement Thursday night.
Barrett began to run after Garcia, and after a brief chase, the suspect grabbed a nearby female customer and held a steak knife to her throat, the source said.
Barrett repeatedly warned Garcia to put down the knife, and when the suspect refused, the officer fired a shot at the suspect's head, killing him.
The hostage was not seriously injured.
One shopper described the frenzied scene as police responded.
"We were over at Forever 21 and we went to leave, and all of a sudden they shut down the gates at Sears. And we took off running because we knew something happened," said Colleen Vedder. "Half the stores are closed inside ... Shoppers all started scurrying out, away from Sears."
Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac commended Barrett, calling him "very bright and very dedicated, and we're proud of the job he did saving woman's life."
He noted that when Officer Barrett graduated from Woodbridge Police Academy, he received an award for best marksman.
Barrett has lived in Woodbridge his entire life. His father, who retired just a few days ago as a police lieutenant, heads the Woodbridge Ambulance and First Aid Squad.
The Middlesex County Prosecutors Office is leading the investigation.