Mary Lovelace shocked shoppers and storeowners alike April 8 by jumping to her death from the mall's fourth story on a busy weekday afternoon. Lovelace, 55, a Jamaica resident, climbed over the waist-high glass barrier surrounding the mall's open atrium and plunged to her death.
Lovelace landed on teenager Derrik Munoz, who was sitting on a massage chair on the mall's ground floor, talking with his girlfriend. The 17-year-old Munoz was rushed to Elmhurst Hospital, where he was in stable condition later that day.
According to eyewitnesses, Lovelace was accompanied by two teenagers when she scaled a glass barrier and, as passersby began to scream, jumped off.
The suicide shocked shoppers and storeowners, and the many teenagers there enjoying spring break. Several minutes of chaos ensued before Queens Center Mall security could get control of the situation. Within minutes police arrived, cordoned off the area, and closed down that part of the mall.
"Everybody started running and screaming," after the fall, said Raul Martinez, an employee at the Armani Exchange store who saw the jump. "It was very disturbing."
Interviews with shoppers and storeowners two days after the incident revealed mixed concerns about safety at the mall.
Some believe the mall building presents no obvious danger, and is not especially inviting for suicide attempts. Several others, however, said the mall should do more to prevent incidents like this one from happening.
"You can easily jump, the barriers are not high enough," said one shopper, who identified herself only as Liza. "It's dangerous."
Aruna Kapoor, who works at a store on the mall's fourth floor, agreed. "It's too unsafe," said Kapoor, who would like to see the mall build higher barriers. "These days everyone is so frustrated with the economy, they don't have jobs or money. Anyone can [jump]."
Leslie Key, who works at the Time Warner Cable booth just steps from the spot where Lovelace jumped, saw the entire incident unfold.
Key, confirming other eyewitness accounts, said Lovelace placed her jacket and boots on a bench before easily climbing over the barrier, where she paused on a ledge. Key said it was then that he heard Lovelace's companion, believed to be her, son, scream "Mom, No!" as he saw what was happening and dashed towards the railing.
"Then I just saw her let go," said Key, who would later gave the victim's articles of clothing over to mall security. Key said he ran to the barrier, only to look down and see Lovelace and the teenager she landed on covered in a pool of blood.
"It really messes with my head," Key said of witnessing the suicide. "I can't get her face before she jumped out of my head."
Key said the mall should heighten the barriers to at least ten feet to dissuade suicidal people from going there to jump.
"I think it should be high enough where nobody can commit suicide," said Key. "I hope [the mall] will do something because I really feel like this is unsafe."
When asked if he thought the mall management company would do anything, Key said, "Honestly, I don't think so."
Ina brief phone interview, a Queens Center Mall spokesperson expressed sympathy for the families of the victims involved, but would not comment further on the incident.