A masked gunman wearing camouflage opened fire on Tuesday in a busy Portland, Oregon, mall, leaving the gunman and two others dead and forcing the mall’s Santa Claus and hundreds of Christmas shoppers and employees to flee or hide among store displays.
Austin Patty, 20, who works at Macy’s department store, 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. A series of rapid-fire shots in short succession followed as Christmas music played. Patty said he ducked to the ground and then ran.
His Macy’s co-worker, Pam Moore, told reporters the gunman was short, with dark hair. Witnesses said he started firing just outside Macy’s in the food court of Clackamas Town Center.
Brance Wilson, the mall Santa, said he heard gunshots and dove for the floor. By the time he looked up seconds later, everyone around him had cleared out. Merchandise was scattered in some stores as he made his way to the door.
“Santa will be back,” Wilson said. “It’s not going to keep Santa away from the mall.”
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 Lieutenant 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.
Police said they have tentatively identified the gunman, but would not release his name or give any information on a possible motive. Officials said a woman was also shot and was in serious condition at a Portland hospital.
“We have a young lady in the hospital fighting for her life right now,” Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts said at a news conference late on Tuesday.
Clackamas Town Center is one of the Portland area’s biggest and busiest malls, with 185 stores and a 20-screen movie theater. It was to remain closed at least through yesterday, Roberts said.
Shaun Wik, 20, from Fairview, said he was Christmas shopping with his girlfriend 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!” However, Wik and his girlfriend ran. He heard seven or eight more shots and did not turn around.
“If I had looked back, I might not be standing here,” Wik said.
Kira Rowland told KGW-TV that she was shopping at Macy’s with her infant son when the shots started.
“All of a sudden you hear two shots, which sounded like balloons popping,” Rowland told the station. “Everybody got on the ground. I grabbed the baby from the stroller and got on the ground.”
She said hundreds of shoppers and mall employees started running, trying to escape through a department store exit.
Tiffany Turgetto and her husband were leaving Macy’s through the first floor when they heard gunshots coming from the second floor of the mall.
“I had left my phone at home. I was telling people to call 911. Surprisingly, people are around me, no one was calling 911. I think people were in shock,” she said.