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A gunman fatally shot five women in a robbery at a clothing store in a suburban Chicago strip mall and fled Saturday, prompting police to sweep through neighboring shops as terrified customers watched.

The victims were killed at a Lane Bryant at the Brookside Marketplace, police Sgt. T.J. Grady said. Officers found the victims at the back of the store after getting a 911 call around 10:45 a.m., Grady said.

Grady said robbery was believed to be the motive. Police searched for the gunman using a helicopter and dogs but concluded that the man left the stores off Interstate 80 southwest of downtown Chicago.

In a Target across the parking lot from Lane Bryant, terrified customers were herded to the front as police with pistols and rifles drawn searched the aisles and storerooms for the gunman.

"I was so scared I couldn't think," said Selena Kujawa of nearby Mokena, who had just entered the store with her 5-year-old son when it was locked down. After about an hour, customers were told to leave.

"They told us to get in our cars and get out of here," Kujawa said.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Police Department warned its officers to pay attention to strip malls and other Lane Bryant stores, police spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

Grady said police were downloading video from cameras mounted at nearby stores.

The Lane Bryant was open at the time of the shootings. Grady declined to say whether the victims were customers or employees. He gave no ages and said authorities were still trying to reach the victims' families.

The family of Carrie Hudek Chiuso, a Frankfort social worker, said she was one of the victims. Chiuso, who was in her early 30s, was shopping.

"She is the most wonderful person, and that maniac took a piece of all of us," said Jennifer Hudek, Chiuso's sister-in-law.

Information from the Chicago Tribune was used in this report.