COLORADO SPRINGS, May 9 (UPI) -- Investigators are trying to determine the sequence of events that led to a sheriff's deputy shooting a suspect inside a busy craft store in Colorado, authorities said.
The shooting happened at about 6:30 p.m. local time Friday inside a Hobby Lobby store in Colorado Springs. Some shoppers said they saw a uniformed El Paso County Sheriff's Office deputy enter the store moments before they heard gunfire.
Some witnesses, who fled to the back of the store, told police the shots sounded like they came from near the entrance and checkout area. Another witness said the deputy tried to make contact with the man before opening fire, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported.
How the deputy tried to contact the man and what happened in the moments before he reached for his gun is the focus of the investigation.
Frightened shoppers made a bolt for the rear of the store and escaped out the back exit, sounding an alarm that only added to the chaos. Authorities from the sheriff's office and Colorado State Patrol responded immediately and surrounded the store within minutes of the gunfire.
In fact, one shopper said a responding patrol car ran into his vehicle in the parking lot on the way in.
"There was just mass panic," shopper Laynee Blair said.
"I heard someone saying, 'get down, get down,'" witness Rita Weiss told Colorado Springs ABC affiliate KRDO-TV.
Some of the people inside said it took them a few seconds to realize the loud bangs they heard were gunshots.
"I assumed that it was just somebody broke something or thunder," witness Monique Boone told Colorado Springs CBS affiliate KKTV. "I was freaking out ... my husband grabbed me and said 'go, go, go,' so we went."
"I hoped someone wasn't going crazy in there," Boone recalled. "And [hoped] that they wouldn't follow us out."
Shopper Chris Mannino told the Gazette he initially thought something had fallen in the store -- and recalled an off-duty police officer shouting at him to take cover seconds later. He also said customers and employees who huddled in the rear before exiting were panicked and disoriented.
The 48-year-old man who was shot by the deputy was taken to a hospital, but his condition was not initially given. Investigators have not yet identified the man, but the El Paso County Sheriff's Office called him a suspect whom the deputy was trying to arrest, KKTV's report said.
While most witnesses specifically remembered hearing three gunshots, it was not revealed how many struck the suspect. A pair of witnesses said the first two shots were followed by a brief pause before the final shot. Another witness told police they heard as many as six shots, KRDO-TV reported.
No one else was injured in the shooting or its aftermath.
The unidentified deputy involved in the shooting, and another who had accompanied him to the store, were placed on routine administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
A source close to the investigation told KRDO-TV that the deputies were working on fugitive apprehension, and that the deputies wore "soft" uniforms -- a long-sleeved T-shirt with 'sheriff' printed on the arms and back.
Many children were inside the store at the time of the shooting, witnesses said, shopping with parents for craft supplies.
"Hobby Lobby, you know, it's like, that's where you go with your grandma to get beads and lace, there's no shootings in Hobby Lobby," Boone said.
"I guess today there was."