Nine dead in Nebraska mall shooting

A 19-year-old man killed eight people and then himself with a rifle at a busy mall in Omaha on Wednesday, sending terrified workers and Christmas shoppers scrambling for cover.

Nine dead in Nebraska mall shooting

Five people were wounded in the early afternoon rampage at the upscale Westroads Mall, two of them critically, according to hospital spokesmen.

"It was horrible, just horrible," one woman told KETV, a local television station.

The shooting was the latest in a series of mass killings that have shocked the United States, where gun ownership is widespread and the right to bear arms is a hotly contested constitutional issue.

"It's hard to believe it would happen here," said Jennifer Bettger, who left the mall in the Midwestern city just before the shooting. "It stops you in your tracks. We're all asking why. Why here?"

KETV identified the gunman as Robert Hawkins, 19, from Bellevue, Nebraska, who was living near Omaha in the community of Quail Creek.

Hawkins wrote a suicide note talking about his desire to become famous, which his mother gave to police, KETV said.

Witnesses said they hid in bathrooms, closets and under racks of clothes, some praying as an estimated two-dozen shots echoed through the mall.

The gunman shot one man in the head from a third-floor balcony and others at point-blank range, witnesses said. Most of the victims were shot inside the Von Maur department store near the children's clothing area.

"We're a family business. This is just devastating," said Jim Von Maur, chief executive of the chain of 22 stores.

Police said the gunman died from a self-inflicted wound.

'A rough life'


Hawkins had been in trouble at school and with the law, and recently lost a job at a McDonald's fast-food restaurant, KETV reported.

"He wanted to go out like a star," said Andrew Bigler, who described himself as a friend of Hawkins. "He had a rough life. He was a good guy. I loved him."

Jeff Schaffart, an attorney, was shot in the arm as he spent his lunch break shopping with his wife. He said he hid in a Von Maur women's bathroom, using his tie as a tourniquet to slow the bleeding.

"Finally after what seemed like an eternity ... the sheriff came in and was basically guarding the door with his shotgun," said Schaffart. "I was obviously very fortunate. Not a lot of people were so fortunate today."

The Nebraska rampage came eight months after Virginia Tech university became the site of the deadliest shooting spree in modern US history when a student killed 32 people and then himself.

In October 2006, a milk truck driver tied up and shot 10 Amish schoolgirls in their classroom in Pennsylvania, killing five of them before turning the gun on himself.

In another infamous shooting, two teenagers killed 12 students and a teacher in April 1999 at their high school in Columbine, Colorado, before committing suicide.

President George W. Bush, who visited Omaha on Wednesday morning but had left the city hours before the gunman opened fire, was "deeply saddened by the shootings."

"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," the White House said in a statement.

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 06 Aralık 2007, 14:58
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