A gunman killed two people and wounded another before taking his own life Tuesday afternoon at Clackamas Town Center southeast of Portland.
The identities of the dead and wounded were not released Tuesday. A woman, estimated to be 18 years old, was taken by LifeFlight helicopter to OHSU Hospital in Portland where she remains in serious condition. She is expected to survive, authorities said.
In an 8:30 p.m. press briefing, Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts said four SWAT teams searched the 1.4 million-square-foot mall for people who barricaded themselves for safety. An estimated 10,000 people were at the mall at the time of the shooting, he said.
Roberts said no motive had been determined yet.
Witnesses say a gunman armed with a semi-automatic weapon opened fire after entering the mall through the Macy’s department store entrance, then moved to the food court, where he continued shooting.
About 100 officers descended on the mall within minutes of the 3:30 p.m. shooting.
Lt. James Rhodes of the sheriff’s office said the gunman acted alone, something that was uncertain after the shooting. Asked if there was an accomplice, Rhodes said he did not know.
He said the gunman, a white adult male, apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Though the sheriff’s office has tentatively identified the shooter, Sgt. Adam Phillips said, it is not releasing his name.
He said law enforcement officials did not fire their weapons in the mall.
The mall was closed after the shooting and will remain closed today, Phillips said. People who left belongings inside can get information at http://clackamastowncenter.com.
Anyone who witnessed the shooting but has not spoken with authorities is asked to call 503-655-8211.
An employee in the mall, Evan Walters, told KATU-TV that he and 10 others were in a shop near where the shooting started.
“It was kind of surreal, because we hear pops and loud noises all the time because we’re right here by the food court, but it’s never been anything like that,” he said. “It was very definite gunshots. I think most all of us knew it was gunshots. There really was no rhyme or reason to them. There were many in a row.”
People on the scene reported hearing up to 60 shots. The number of rounds fired was not reported by the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.
“Intense situations like this get perceived many ways,” Phillips said, warning against speculation.
‘A scene of chaos’
Nicole Mason, 18, of Vancouver, told the Los Angeles Times that she was in the Things Remembered store next to Macy’s on the lower level of the two-story mall when she heard a loud shot outside the store.
“We heard a really loud bang, and at first it sounded like something had dropped or something had shattered,” she said. “About 15 seconds after that first shot, it was bang, bang, bang, at least 20 shots were fired.”
She was with Seth Benson, 20, of Camas. When she dropped to the floor, he jumped on top of her. “All I’m thinking is, ‘Comfort her,’ so I laid on top of her and told her it was all going to be OK,” he told The Times.
The Things Remembered manager told shoppers to head for a back door behind the register, shouting, “Go!” the witnesses said. Benson helped a man with a prosthetic leg get up off the floor as he was being trampled.
They were outside the mall within 45 seconds of the shooting, Benson and Mason said. The parking lot was chaotic and clogged with people, and the first police officer arrived.
“It was pretty hectic, people were coming out crying,” Benson said. “I talked to a group of girls whose mom was in there, and she was in the upper level, so there was obviously no exit for her to get out.”
Kira Rowland told KGW-TV that she was shopping at Macy’s with her infant when the shots started.
“All of a sudden you hear two shots, which sounded like balloons popping,” she said. “Everybody got on the ground. I grabbed the baby from the stroller and got on the ground.”
Rowland said she heard screaming and crying. “I put the baby back in the stroller and ran like hell,” she said. “It was awful. It was shots after shots after shots like a massacre.
“It was just awful.”
Shaun Wik, 20, from Fairview, Ore., told The Associated Press 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!” 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,” he said.
Holli Bautista, 28, said she was shopping in the Macy’s for a Christmas dress for her daughter when she heard a two or three pops that sounded like firecrackers.
“I heard people running and screaming and saying, ‘Get out, there’s somebody shooting’,” she told The Associated Press. “It was a scene of chaos.”
She said hundreds of shoppers and mall employees started running, and she and dozens of other people were trying to escape through an exit in the department store.Witnesses told reporters that they saw a single gunman wearing a white mask and body armor. The Oregonian reported the weapon was an AR-15, the civilian version of an M-16 rifle.
Macy’s employees Pam Moore and Austin Patty told the AP the shooter was short, with dark hair, dressed in camouflage. “I heard about 20 shots and everyone hit the ground,” Moore said. “That’s when we all just ran.”
Sunnyside Road and southbound lanes of Interstate 205 were temporarily closed as officials locked down the mall and established a perimeter to contain the scene.
Three LifeFlight helicopters were brought in to evacuate victims. Two were released and the third remained on standby.
Later Tuesday, OHSU Hospital issued a statement that it is caring for one patient from the shooting. The patient’s family has given OHSU permission to confirm the patient is female and in serious condition. The patient’s condition is not expected to change overnight.
Sheriff’s officials asked people near the mall to stay off their cellphones. La Salle High School was put on lockdown.
TriMet announced that neither the MAX Green Line nor bus lines 28, 29, 30, 31, 71, 72, 79, 152, 155 and 156 would stop at the closed mall today, and that the CTC Transit Center park-and-ride garage would be closed.
Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber issued a statement: “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. I appreciate the work of the first responders and their quick reaction to this tragic shooting. Oregon State Police Superintendent Rich Evans is on the scene. I have directed State Police to make any and all necessary resources available to local law enforcement.”
The Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times and Columbian reporters Craig Brown, Marissa Harshman, Patty Hastings, Dave Kern and Sue Vorenberg contributed to this report.