OMAHA, Neb. - People returned to the Westroads Mall yesterday, most to shop for the holidays, but some to grieve in the place where a young gunman killed eight people and himself three days earlier.
Within the mall, however, the Von Maur department store where Robert Hawkins fired an assault rifle Wednesday remained closed.
A note from management said the store would reopen soon. No date was given.
Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey greeted shoppers and reassured retailers the city stood behind them as they struggled to regain momentum during the holiday shopping season. The mall is safe, he said. "We have a lot of officers on duty, and they will be on duty all day long."
A few police cars were visible in the parking lot. Two Red Cross vans and a Salvation Army unit outside one mall entrance greeted people with doughnuts, coffee and offers of grief counseling.
Police said Hawkins, 19, of nearby Bellevue, fired more than 30 rounds inside Von Maur, striking 11 people, eight of whom died.
His family released a statement yesterday through the Rev. Mark Miller of Faith Presbyterian Church in La Vista. "The Hawkins family extends its sincerest condolences to all those impacted by this senseless and horrible event," the statement read. "While no words can ease the pain and grief, our family prays that at some time, in some way, our community can be healed in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy."
Prosecutors say Hawkins had been allowed to walk away from state-mandated care in the summer of 2006 - after four years of treatment and counseling costing hundreds of thousands of dollars - but not because he was prepared to face society on his own. "There was really nothing more that we could offer him that he was willing to participate in," said Sandra Markley, Sarpy County's lead juvenile prosecutor.