A gunman opened fire at Clackamas Town Center on Tuesday, killing two people and wounding another as people were doing their Christmas shopping, authorities said.
PORTLAND — A masked gunman wearing camouflage opened fire Tuesday in a busy suburban Portland mall, killing two people, wounding another and forcing hundreds of Christmas shoppers and employees to flee or hide among store displays.
Witnesses described a scene of chaos and disbelief as the gunman fired rounds from a military-style rifle near the food court at Clackamas Town Center in Happy Valley. More than 10,000 shoppers were inside the mall at the time, officials said.
Parents and 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. Police said they had tentatively identified the gunman but did not release his name or provide a possible motive.
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Some store employees and customers remained in hiding inside the mall hours after the 3:30 p.m. shooting, The Oregonian reported. Authorities went store-to-store to confirm that there was only one shooter and to escort hiding shoppers outside, Rhodes said.
Authorities didn’t identify the victims. The shopper who was wounded, a young woman, was in serious condition at a Portland hospital.
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. The gunman then fired several shots paced seconds apart.
A series of rapid-fire shots followed — as many as 60 in all, according to some reports. Patty said he ducked to the ground and then ran.
His Macy’s co-worker, Pam Moore, said 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, about 10 miles from downtown Portland.
The mall has about 185 stores and a 20-screen movie theater. Anchor tenants also include Nordstrom and J.C. Penney. Authorities said the mall would remain closed Wednesday while the shooting is investigated.
Taylor Gibson, 20, an employee at Build-A-Bear Workshop on the mall’s lower level near Macy’s, told The Oregonian she was walking toward the front of the store around 4 p.m. when she heard a bang. At first, she thought something had fallen. But as more and more shots came, “something clicked,” she said.
“Me and the others raced to the back of the store and got our customers in the backroom,” she told The Oregonian.
Then, Gibson had to return to the front of her store to close its main gate.
“That gate takes 30 to 45 seconds to close,” she said. “Honestly, as I was shutting that gate I was waiting for that person to walk up the hallway and shoot me.”
Gibson and three other employees kept 17 customers, including four children, busy in the backroom by eating snacks and building bears.
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.”
Rowland said she heard people screaming and crying.
“I put the baby back in the stroller and ran like hell,” Rowland said. “It was awful. It was shots after shots after shots, like a massacre.”
Holli Bautista, 28, said she was shopping at Macy’s for a Christmas dress for her daughter when she heard pops that sounded like firecrackers.
“I heard people running and screaming and saying, ‘Get out, there’s somebody shooting,’ ” she said. “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 the department store.
Bautista said the shots sounded like they were coming from the food court.
Bob Schwab, a World War II veteran, told The Oregonian that he was “by Santa Claus in front of Macy’s and we heard ‘pow pow pow.’ People screamed and ran. I saw Santa drop to the floor” to take cover.
The mall Santa, Brance Wilson, confirmed that but offered a comforting note to his young fans. “Santa will be back,” he said. “It’s not going to keep Santa away from the mall.”
Information from the Los Angeles Times is included.