PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A gunman opened fire in a suburban Portland shopping mall Tuesday, killing two people and wounding another as people were doing their Christmas shopping, authorities said.
Witnesses described a scene of chaos and disbelief as a gunman wearing some sort of camouflage outfit and what looked like a hockey mask fired rounds fire from a military-style rifle near the food court at Clackamas Town Center.
Parents with children joined other shoppers rushing to stores’ backrooms for safety as teams of police officers began entering the mall to find the shooter.
Clackamas County sheriff’s Lt. James Rhodes said later that the gunman was dead, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. A shopper told KATU-TV he saw a man lying on the floor with a gun next to him.
Authorities went store-to-store to confirm that there was only one shooter and to escort hiding shoppers outside, Rhodes said.
Austin Patty, 20, who works at Macy’s, said he saw a man in a white mask carrying a rifle and wearing a bulletproof vest.
He heard the gunman say, “I am the shooter,” as if announcing himself, Patty said. He then fired several shots paced seconds apart.
A series of rapid-fire shots in short succession followed. Patty said he ducked to the ground and then ran.
His Macy’s co-worker, Pam Moore, told The Associated Press the gunman was short, with dark hair, and dressed in camouflage.
“I heard about 20 shots and everyone hit the ground,” Moore said. “That’s when we all just ran.”
Witnesses said the mall’s Santa Claus was among those who ducked for cover.
The mall is one of the Portland area’s busiest. It’s in a middle-class area that has become popular with families as falling real estate prices have put its homes just a few miles from downtown Portland within financial reach.
The mall has about 185 stores and a 20-screen movie theater among anchor tenants that also include Nordstrom and J.C. Penney. Sheriff’s deputies said it would remain closed during the investigation of the shooting, but it wasn’t clear how long that would take.
Shaun Wik, 20, from Fairview, said he was Christmas shopping with his girlfriend Tuesday and opened a fortune cookie at the food court. Inside was written “live for today, remember yesterday, think of tomorrow.”
As he read it, he heard three shots. He heard a man he believes was the gunman shout, “Get down!” but Wik and his girlfriend ran. He heard seven or eight more shots. He didn’t turn around.
“If I had looked back, I might not be standing here,” Wik said. “I might have been one of the ones who got hit.”