CORALVILLE — Andrea Farrington, a fun-loving young woman who found her “dream job” at the Coral Ridge Mall, was shot and killed by one of the people hired to keep her and mall visitors safe, authorities said Saturday.
Farrington, days shy of her 21st birthday, was shot three times in the back Friday evening near the food court by mall security guard Alexander M. Kozak, 22, investigators said.
She worked yards away at the Iowa Children’s Museum.
“To have such a senseless act of violence committed on her is such a tragedy,” said museum Executive Director Deb Dunkhase. She said Farrington, of Cedar Rapids, was “an amazing woman’ who served as a guest experience specialist.
“She was a force of nature,” said Dunkhase, praising her energy and attitude. “She was such a great match for the Children’s Museum.”
Authorities said Saturday that Farrington, a Montezuma High School graduate, was working the mall’s information desk around 7:30 p.m. Friday when she was shot by Kozak.
He had worked as a security officer at the mall since late 2014 and was working there before the shooting, officials said. But according to criminal complaints, he left the mall, drove to his North Liberty apartment, retrieved a 9 mm Glock handgun, returned and shot Farrington.
Coralville Police Lt. Shane Kron said an officer was inside the mall on an unrelated call and responded “immediately” after shots were heard. Dozens of officers from Coralville and surrounding agencies responded to the mall, which was placed into a lockdown.
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Authorities said during a news conference Saturday that Farrington and Kozak knew each other, but did not offer any explanation for what led to the fatal shooting.
“They both worked at the Coral Ridge Mall and knew each other through the Coral Ridge Mall,” Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness said.
Kozak fled after the shooting. His Kia Optima was spotted by an Iowa State Patrol trooper at 8:23 p.m. near Walcott on eastbound Interstate 80. Seven minutes later, a second trooper and a Scott County deputy stopped Kozak. He was taken into custody without incident.
Kron said police knew Kozak from his time at the mall.
“Several of our officers know him by sight, know him by name and have talked to him previously,” he said.
Kron said the mall contracts with a company for its security, but he did not know the name of that organization.
According to a statement from Lyness, Kozak admitted to Iowa Division of Investigation Special Agent-In-Charge Rick Rahn that he had gone for a gun and returned to the mall to shoot Farrington.
Kozak faces one count of first-degree murder, a Class A felony that carries an automatic life sentence. During an initial appearance Saturday at the Johnson County Jail, his bail was set at $10 million cash.
Kozak is a “normal kid” trying to get a better job and considering enlisting in the Navy, his father-in-law said.
Ken Kozak, of Stacyville, said Alex married his daughter, Kellie, last September. When the two wed, Alex took Kellie’s last name, her father said. Ken Kozak said he didn’t know Alex’s original last name.
“His dad left the family when he was quite young,” Ken Kozak said. “He didn’t take kindly to it so he thought it’d be a good opportunity to change his name.”
Alex and Kellie were interested in archery and Ken Kozak said he went shooting with his son-in-law in the past. Alex had a Glock, he said.
A post on Kellie Kozak’s Facebook page detailing a visit to Costco in which her husband was apparently carrying a sidearm indicates the pair are strong supporters of the Second Amendment. Ken Kozak said his son-in-law was responsible with weapons.
“If circumstances were that it’d be best not to have a weapon present, he didn’t have a problem with that,” he said. “He didn’t brandish one around or anything.”
Facebook posts from Alex Kozak make references to the Armed Services and weapons. On May 28, he shared a photo containing the text, “I am a born free, gun toting, Constitution loving American.”
A photo album on his Facebook page titled, “My Toys” contains more than a dozen images of knives, swords, a gas mask, a copy of the book, “The Anarchist Cookbook,” and other weapons. One blade is stamped with the text, “One Shot One Kill.”
A woman who answered the door at the couple’s North Liberty apartment Saturday said “there’s a lot of misinformation out there” but declined further comment.
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A statement released Saturday from Coral Ridge Mall general manager Monica Nadeau said the mall remains closed until further notice. But many anchor stores were open Saturday and attracting shoppers.
One was Laurie Kapp of Coralville, who went to see if Barnes & Noble was open.
“I didn’t notice anything different,” she said. “I was curious, though.”
She said she was not worried for her safety because she heard the shooting wasn’t random.
Friday night’s shooting marked the second fatal attack in less than six weeks carried out in front of multiple witnesses in the Corridor.
In April, police said Nicholas Leurkens, 32, stabbed to death a woman who once lived with him, Lynnsey Donald, 29, in the parking lot of the Marion Hy-Vee. He is awaiting trial.
Dunkhase said a memorial service for Farrington would take place Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. at the Children’s Museum. Peter the turtle and his habitat — which Farrington loved to take care of, Dunkhase said — will be dedicated to her.
Jamie Van Dee, who describes herself as Farrington’s best friend from high school and college, established a page on gofundme.com “to help her family out in their time of need”
Van Dee described her friend as a “very sweet, fun-loving person.”
“She made the best of out everything,” Van Dee said.
Maddy Arnold of The Gazette and Sarah McCarthy of KCRG-TV9 contributed to this report.