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The loud sounds of gunshots started about 7:25 p.m. Wednesday.

Moments later, people started to post on social media, wondering what was happening at Westgate Entertainment District in Glendale.

“Someone just shot up Westgate,” one Twitter user wrote.

“Scariest thing just happened- came to #westgate to enjoy some outside time w my brother and dad and had to RUN AWAY bc a crazy person decided to shoot the place up,” said another. “Sincerely have never been so scared in my life.”

Aja Sanders was picking up food from Hot N Juicy Crawfish near the center of the outdoor dining and shopping area when she heard the shots. 

"They were so loud," she told The Arizona Republic. 

UPDATE: Police identify man suspected of shooting at Westgate

Videos showed people running and, later, the flashing of red and blue lights as police arrived. Helicopters whirred overhead.

State Sen. Martín Quezada, D-Phoenix, said he was one of those eyewitnesses. “I just witnessed an armed terrorist with an AR-15 shoot up Westgate. There are multiple victims,” he wrote on Twitter at 7:38 p.m.

Later, he added, “I saw 2 victims with my own eyes. Not sure how many others I saw the shooter. Being told not to say anything else about details 'til I speak to police. I'm ok. Lots of shaken up people.”

At 7:44 p.m., one person asked on Twitter what was happening at Westgate. “I can’t leave!!!”

“I’m like seriously traumatized,” the person posted later in the night.

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A man who lived down the street from the shopping center said he heard “what sounded like lightning” and didn’t think much of it until he heard sirens. He walked onto his balcony and saw swarms of police officers. He couldn’t talk further with a reporter because his phone was about to run out of battery life and his power was out. It’s unclear what caused the power outage in the area.

Eliana Rivera, a sales associate at the pottery painting store As You Wish, posted that she and a co-worker were hiding in the back of the studio that's on the northern side of the district.

“The shooting happened right there, literally ... a hundred feet from where we’re at.  … Police running, helicopters in the air, we’re hiding in the back,” Rivera said in a video she posted on Twitter.

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@xRubyDaCherry on Twitter shared this video of the scene at Westgate. Arizona Republic

By 7:48 p.m., Glendale police confirmed there was a shooting at Westgate.

Glendale police spokesperson Officer Tiffany Ngalula later said three people were shot, one of whom was in critical condition. The shooter is in custody, according to police.

What people saw at Westgate

Rivera told The Republic she and a co-worker were preparing to close for the night when they heard gunshots. Rivera said she initially wasn’t sure whether the sounds were fireworks or from a truck’s exhaust backfiring. After hearing about 10 rounds of shots, Rivera said she saw people running away from the noise.

Rivera and the co-worker locked the store’s doors and turned off the lights before hiding in the back. She called 911 before calling her mom to tell her she was OK.

Rivera said she didn’t see the shooter, but saw videos on social media that showed shooting near a hallway across from their store. The incident left her shaken. She never imagined she would be in such a situation.

“It’s just unreal,” Rivera said. “You see it on the news. It happens and you never really think that you would be put in that position. You just think, ‘What are the chances that that will happen?’ — and it did.”

Rivera said police officers eventually entered and searched the store about 8 p.m. before telling them to relock the front door and continue hiding.

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Video appears to show an armed individual walking around a Westgate parking lot before being apprehended by Glendale police on May 20, 2020. Arizona Republic

Others were able to leave the area quickly. 

Sanders stopped at Westgate to pick up a to-go order from Hot N Juicy Crawfish with her girlfriend. As they were walking away with their order, Sanders heard an “extremely loud” sound that she thought was gunshots.

As they got to their car, she saw people start running and trying to get to their vehicles. A man tried to get into her car to escape the scene quicker, she said.

“It was crazy."

This was only her second time going to Hot N Juicy Crawfish. She doesn’t live nearby.

“It was like a feeling of wrong place, wrong time,” Sanders said.

They were able to leave the area safely.

Sanders, 24, said she was shot in a drive-by shooting when she was 9. When she was at the hospital, she asked her mom if this would ever happen to her again, she recalled. Her mom said no.

“It just kind of brought back these things that had happened before to me,” Sanders said. “It was a lot for us.”

Shooting leaves people shaken

State Rep. César Chávez, D-Phoenix, said he learned of the shooting through the Twitter posts from Quezada, his Senate counterpart in Legislative District 29. He said he immediately called Quezada to check on him and found the senator “in a state of shock.” 

Chávez next called his friend Rosie Lopez, owner of Westgate cigar lounge Fine Ash that's on the east side of the complex.

"She was crying. She was telling me that the shooter came out of the parking lot and started opening fire,” he said. “She said they had been singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to a customer on the patio, and once the shooting started, they immediately ran inside, and the shooter went a different direction.”

Fine Ash employees later went back outside to help one of the victims, Chávez said.

“Hearing from my seatmate, hearing from my dear friend — I can’t find words. This is unfathomable to me. It’s something that my brain hasn’t been able to recognize,” he said. “I live five minutes from Westgate. This is right in my backyard.” 

Chávez described Westgate as “peaceful,” “family-oriented” and “a place where hundreds of thousands of people have gathered from across the world” for Super Bowls and basketball games. 

"To say that this has me shaken up is definitely an understatement,” he said. 

Chávez also said he was frustrated that state officials haven't implemented more comprehensive gun control measures in the years since the 2011 shooting of then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords near Tucson. Giffords survived her injuries, but six others died.

“It just dumbfounds me how we continue, in the state of Arizona and in this country, to ignore this issue and ignore the problem,” he said. 

Reach reporter Rachel Leingang by email at rachel.leingang@gannett.com or by phone at 602-444-8157, or find her on Twitter and Facebook.

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Glendale police give an update on the Westgate Entertainment District shooting on May 20, 2020. Arizona Republic

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