OMAHA, Neb. - A man opened fire with a rifle at a busy department store yesterday, killing eight people before killing himself in an attack that made holiday shoppers run screaming through a mall and barricade themselves in dressing rooms. Five people also were wounded, two critically.
The gunman left a suicide note that was found at his home by his mother, said a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity. TV station KETV reported that the note said he wanted to "go out in style."
The official identified the gunman as Robert A. Hawkins, age 20.
Witnesses said the gunman fired down on shoppers from a third-floor balcony of the Von Maur store. One witness told a TV station that he shot up a teddy bear as he sprayed fire on shoppers.
He was found dead on the third floor with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His victims were discovered on the second and third floors, police said.
Authorities said they knew of no motive for the attack and said they did not know whether Hawkins said anything during the rampage.
Hawkins lived for a little more than a year with a friend's family in a house in a middle-class Bellevue neighborhood.
"When he first came in the house, he was introverted, a troubled young man who was like lost pound puppy that nobody wanted," said Debora Maruca, who owns the home.
Maruca said Hawkins was fired from his job at a nearby McDonald's this week and had recently broken up with a girlfriend.
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.
The Von Maur store is part of a 22-store Midwestern chain. The sprawling, three-level Westroads Mall is in an affluent part of the city and has more than 135 stores and restaurants.
The Omaha World-Herald reported that the gunman had a military-style haircut, a black backpack, and a camouflage vest.
"Everybody was scared, and we didn't know what was going on," said Belene Esaw-Kagbara, 31, a Von Maur employee. "We didn't know what to do. I was praying that God protect us."
Mickey Vickory, who worked at Von Maur's third-floor service department, said she heard shots at about 1:50 p.m.
She and her co-workers and customers went into a back closet behind the wrapping room to hide, then emerged about a half-hour later when police shouted to come out with their hands up. As police took them to another part of the mall, they saw the victims.