ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It was a frightening morning for shoppers at one Albuquerque Walmart after a suspected shoplifter fired off shots toward the store before taking off. A former KRQE colleague was there as it unfolded.

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Police say shoplifters with weapons are becoming a common trend. Tuesday’s incident comes just one day after APD Chief Harold Medina made a plea to state lawmakers as the department tries to handle the city’s crime problem.

It started as a quiet morning at the grocery store, stocking up on essentials ahead of the winter storm. But things quickly turned chaotic for everyone there, including former KRQE anchor, Dick Knipfing.

“All of a sudden, bam bam bam bam bam, and I know enough, I knew it was gunshots right away,” said Knipfing. “Instantly, some woman came running into the store screaming. She was petrified.”

Police say just before 9:30 Tuesday morning at the Walmart Neighborhood Market near San Mateo and I-40, employees attempted to take a woman suspected of shoplifting to the back office. Workers say she refused and left the store before getting into a car and shooting several rounds near the entrance where employees were standing. Knipfing was in the checkout line when it all unfolded.

“I’m just going to the grocery store to get some stuff because it’s going to snow tomorrow and all of a sudden this happens right there,” said Knipfing. “You hear about the shootings, you hear about the violence, you hear about the endless shoplifting and there it is, all rolled into one.”

Witnesses say customers were screaming and running for cover. As of Tuesday evening, that suspect is still on the run. While her identity hasn’t been made public yet, detectives say they know who she is and they’re investigating.

“She has been identified. We think it’s linked to some other cases,” said APD Police Chief Harold Medina. “I was told they’re working on an arrest warrant now and they’re already looking for her to see if we can apprehend her.”

On Monday, Medina proposed to lawmakers, new legislation that could reduce this type of crime. He says the department has noticed dangerous trends of shoplifters and car thieves armed with guns. “The two exact scenarios we played out yesterday for them just happened in the City of Albuquerque,” said Medina. “I hope the legislature yesterday sees that the exact things we spoke about actually played out in the streets of Albuquerque today and we have to put an end to it.”

It’s a sentiment Knipfing agrees with. He describes the current situation as “unchecked violence.” “I love Albuquerque, I spent almost all my life in Albuquerque. This is not the Albuquerque I knew,” said Knipfing. “We’ve always had crime and sure, this is a tough town, but what’s going on now is just chaos.”

During Chief Medina’s discussion with lawmakers on Monday, he says one thing the department is doing differently is charging shoplifting suspects with robbery when they brandish a firearm. They hope this will enable them to keep suspects behind bars on these tougher charges.

There was a similar case in December when three suspects stole boxes of ammo from Sportsman’s Warehouse near I-25 and Renaissance. When confronted by employees, one of the suspects pointed a gun and fired shots in the air. Police are still looking for those suspects.