Mall Massacre: At Least Nine Dead
An afternoon of holiday shopping was shattered by gunfire at Westroads Mall Wednesday afternoon. Authorities say Robert Hawkins, armed with a rifle, killed nine people and injured five others, two critically, before shooting himself to death.
Creighton University Medical Center confirms two fatalities there; one man and one woman. Another person is in critical condition.
Three victims were taken to the Nebraska Medical Center, one in critical condition with a chest wound. One person has an arm wound and the third was being treated for cuts to the face.
Shortly after 4 p.m. Omaha Police Sergeant Teresa Negron said that 14 people were shot; nine had died, including the gunman and five were injured.
Names of those involved were not initially released.
Police don't believe that anyone other than the gunman who killed himself was involved.
Omaha Police Sergeant Teresa Negron said, "As far as we know, there is no other shooter inside the mall."
Police recovered a rifle believed to have been used by the killer.
Channel 6 News has confirmed that 19-year-old Robert Hawkins left a suicide note Wednesday afternoon stating, "I'm going out in style."
The woman who owns the Bellevue home where Hawkins was living says Hawkins had just lost his job.
The mall was locked down as the initial shooting report came out but several people got out of the building shortly after the gunfire and many others followed later.
Law enforcement officers converged on the scene. The police helicopter circled overhead. Members of the Emergency Response Unit were on the scene with guns drawn.
Mickey Vickory, an employee of Von Maur, said she heard shots at about 1:50 p.m. and someone shouted that someone had a gun.
"It was 10 or 12 shots," she said. "We were praying. Every last one of us was praying."
She and her co-workers and customers went into a back closet behind the wrapping room to hide, then came out about a half hour later when police shouted to come out with their hands up.
As they came out and were being taken by police to another part of the mall for safety, they saw the victims.
"We saw the bodies and we saw the blood," she said.
Teresa, an employee of JC Penney, says she got on a two-way radio and said, "If anyone can hear me, there's a man in the mall with a gun and he's shooting people."
Another witness told us she heard approximately 12 gunshots. Other witnesses told us they heard at least that many.
"Connie", a Westroads shopper we spoke with on the phone, tells us she heard the shots on the third floor of the mall. She said she hid and waited until the gunfire stopped and then crawled out of the building.
Two people were taken into custody near a bus stop but it was not clear if those men were connected to the shootings.
A witness tells us that the shooter pointed a gun over a third-floor railing in the mall and opened fire. That witness says one person was shot in the head.
Two busloads on witness were gathered together as authorities tried to figure out what happened.
Eric, the father of a woman who is a security guard at the mall, got word around 3 p.m. that his daughter was not injured in the incident. She has been on the job for about a year and told her parents she saw one of the victims get shot.
"She called my wife. She was pretty upset," Eric told us.
Witness Chuck Wright says, "I heard this bang, bang, bang. And immediately I just froze."
He says, "As I backed off, I heard bang, bang, again."
Wright says he heard a total of 12 to 15 shots fired.
"It was just panic. Nobody knew what was going on," Wright said.
Wright told us the shootings appeared to be random.
Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey and Police Chief Thomas Warren were both out of town at the time of the shootings. Both are returning to the city.
Senator Ben Nelson issued a statement Wednesday evening saying, "Today the city of Omaha and the state of Nebraska have endured a terrible tragedy. Though some of our neighbors have suffered devastating losses today, I know that they can count on the support of the Omaha community at this time. Diane and I send our thoughts and prayers out to the families and friends of the victims of today's terrible violence."
The shootings happened about an hour after President Bush left town.
On Wednesday evening the White House released the following statement:
"The President is deeply saddened by the shootings in Omaha, Nebraska earlier today. His thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families this evening. Having just visited with so many members of the community in Omaha today, the President is confident that they will pull together to comfort one another as they deal with this terrible tragedy."