A fight between boys reportedly with weapons at South Australia’s largest shopping centre has provided the first glimpse into how authorities now respond to armed incidents, a few months on from the fatal stabbing attack at Bondi Junction.

At 2:52pm on Sunday, police received reports two groups of young males were fighting at Westfield Marion’s food court in Adelaide’s south, some of them reportedly armed with expandable batons.

The incident came just a few months after six people were killed in a knife attack at Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre in Sydney’s east.

How did it unfold?

SA Police first released a statement at 3:30pm on Sunday, saying officers were responding to an “incident” at Westfield Marion and urging the public to stay away.

Two hours later, SA Police provided an update, stating that officers had responded to reports of two groups of young males fighting, some reportedly with weapons, in the food court area. 

SA Police Assistant Commissioner Scott Duval said CCTV showed one group of boys chasing another group through the Westfield into the David Jones store.

Police said no one was hurt as a result of the altercation between the boys, but two people were believed to have been injured during the evacuation process.

SA Ambulance told the ABC that paramedics treated two patients for non life-threatening injuries; a woman in her 70s who suffered a shoulder injury and another person with a knee injury.

One of the patients were transferred to hospital for treatment.

How did authorities respond?

Westfield Marion management enacted emergency procedures, including activating an audible alert and evacuation alarm, and placing the centre into lockdown.

Witnesses reported hearing emergency alarms, while others detailed store shutters coming down and seeing people run through the centre.

Signs throughout the centre were illuminated with the message: “Attention: Armed Offender. Escape. Hide. Tell.”

A number of police swarmed the centre, including STAR Group officers.

Assistant Commissioner Duval said by the time the first officers arrived on the scene, the centre had already put its emergency procedures in place.

Signs at Westfield Marion told shoppers to escape and hide.(ABC News)

Westfield Marion underwent training with SAPOL last week

Authorities were well prepared, having rehearsed a worst-case scenario at Westfield Marion just last week.

“We had an exercise with Westfield where we basically ran through an incident that involved an active armed offender here,” Assistant Commissioner Duval said.

Assistant Commissioner Duval said the rehearsal with Westfield Marion was “very much” influenced by the stabbing attack at Bondi Junction.

“We were exercising with centres like Westfield regularly anyway but the active armed offender scenario that was played out Wednesday week ago is very much about training for this type of activity,” he said. 

“Whilst it is not something we want to do … these types of reactions to these incidents very much are influenced by incidents like Bondi and certainly the reason we exercise with Westfield is closely linked to that type of incident.”

The Bondi Junction attack was also front of mind for some caught up in the commotion at Westfield Marion.

Alex Perkins’s wife and four-year-old son were at the cinema when they were told to evacuate.

He said he was worried following the Bondi incident but thanked police and centre management for their response.

Another witness said everything was “on alert”.

“With everything that happened in Sydney, everything’s hypervigilant and on alert,” they said. 

Police response to be reviewed

Assistant Commissioner Duval said the police response to the incident will be reviewed.

“There’s always opportunities for improvement,” he said.

“We always debrief our exercises and major incidents.

“Any particular issues that come out of these incidents will certainly be reviewed and we will be looking at our practices and procedures as I expect Westfield to be doing.”

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