Gunman opens fire at Omaha mall, killing 9 - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather

Gunman opens fire at Omaha mall, killing 9

OMAHA, Neb. - A gunman opened fire at a busy Omaha mall, killing at least eight people, wounding at least five others and then killing himself, police officials said.

Sgt. Teresa Negron said most of the dead were inside Von Maur department store at Westroads Mall. The shooter acted alone, she said. The gunman was found dead on the third floor of Von Maur.

Police told NBC affiliate WOWT-TV that the gunman was a 19-year-old man from Bellevue, Neb., who left a suicide note in his home stating, "I'm going out in style." The man's vehicle was found in the mall parking lot. Bellevue is in Sarpy County, which is south of Omaha and is home to Offutt Air Force Base.

The shooter, who has not yet been identified, had a police record and served seven days in jail for disorderly conduct last year, police told WOWT-TV.  

Witnesses told WOWT-TV that the shooter pointed a gun over a third-floor railing and opened fire. Police locked the mall down in the aftermath.

A Von Maur employee said he heard a burst of five to six shots followed by 15 to 20 shots. Witnesses said the shooter appeared to be firing randomly. Authorities gave no motive for the attack and did not know whether the man said anything during the rampage.

Police received a 911 call from someone inside the mall, and shots could be heard in the background, Negron said. By the time officers arrived six minutes later, the shooting was over, she said.

At least seven were taken to local trauma centers. Two of these people died from their injuries, and two others were in critical condition. There was no immediate word on the other victims' conditions.

Negron said every officer in the city was sent to the mall. Officials were interviewing many witnesses in the facility.

Von Maur corporate headquarters in Davenport, Iowa, released a statement to the media. "We are deeply saddened by the horrific shooting at our Omaha store this afternoon," it said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this tragic event, as well as their families. We are cooperating fully with the Omaha and Nebraska state police departments."

Witnesses describe arrests, attack
Two people were arrested at the mall's bus stop, WOWT-TV reported. Negron said police officials were arresting anybody who in any way matched conflicting reports of a description of the shooter.

The description of the shooter broadcast over scanners was that he was wearing an Army-green vest and was holding a rifle.

Shoppers and employees ran screaming through the mall and barricaded themselves in dressing rooms after hearing gunfire.

A woman who answered the phone at an Old Navy store said earlier that 20 to 30 customers were huddled with employees in a back storeroom.

"All we know was people were running and screaming down the hallway by Von Maur saying there was a shooting, and then they locked us down," said the woman, who said her name was Heidi.

A Westroads kiosk worker, who identified herself as Kathy, told KETV-TV that she heard three "pops." She said a Bath and Body Works manager approached her and told her to get out of the mall hallway, as there was a shooting, and the assailant had not been located.

Police were allowing some people to leave the mall, but no one was permitted to enter. Around 2:30 p.m., dozens of shoppers and employees left the mall with hands above their heads.

WOWT-TV reported that authorities removed what officials described as a live grenade from the mall's parking lot Friday night. The circumstances of the case are under investigation. There was no indication that incident was related to Wednesday's shootings.

The shooting apparently happened as President Bush was leaving Omaha, where he attended a fundraiser for Republican Senate candidate Mike Johanns.

The sprawling, three-level mall has more than 135 stores and restaurants, according to the Web site for General Growth Properties, the manager of the mall. It gets 14.5 million visitors every year, according to the Web site.