There are harrowing stories this morning from the shopping mall just outside Portland, Ore., where a festive holiday scene turned into a nightmare when a gunman opened fire Tuesday afternoon.
The shooter killed two people, injured another and was later found dead at the scene, "apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound," according to The Associated Press.
From some of the reports:
-- "The mall Santa was waiting for the next child's Christmas wish when shots rang out, causing the shopping mall to erupt into chaos. About to invite a child to hop onto his lap, Brance Wilson instead dove for the floor and kept his head down as he heard shots being fired upstairs in the mall Tuesday afternoon.
" 'I heard two shots and got out of the chair. I thought a red suit was a pretty good target,' said the 68-year-old Wilson. Families waiting for Santa scattered. More shots followed, and Wilson crept away for better cover." (The Associated Press)
-- "Alina Pavlenko heard a loud sound and then another. Looking up from her small cupcake kiosk at the mall's food court, she realized they were gunshots.
The 16-year-old caught sight of a figure in a white mask walking about 100 feet away as the mall's near-empty halls echoed with screams. The figure pointed his gun at a woman nearby and fired, and Pavlenko watched as the woman fell.
"Then he calmly turned toward her.
" 'He looked straight at me and he aimed, but he missed,' said Pavlenko. (The Oregonian)
-- "I was in my store preparing for a mid-day close, just the tills basically," said Paul Beckett, who works at the mall's Excalibur Cutlery & Gifts store. "We heard a lot of gun shots out front. Some of the glass railing in front of my store shattered. A couple of windows in some of the other shops shattered. And people started running around and screaming. They weren't that scared at first. But suddenly people started ducking into places and diving on the ground and hiring." (Oregon Public Broadcasting)
According to The Oregonian, there were "up to 10,000 shoppers" in the Clackamas Town Center when the "masked gunman raced inside the mall and began firing dozens of shots. ... An estimated 100 law enforcement personnel descended on the mall, including local police, state troopers and four tactical weapons teams, backed by members of the FBI and Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms."
It now appears, the newspapers says, that the gunman (his name hadn't been released as Wednesday dawned; but he's said to be 22 years old) "fired up to 60 shots before killing himself."
Bob Schwab, "a World War II veteran who walks the mall for exercise, saw a surge of terrified shoppers rush out of the mall while one Santa took cover," he told the newspaper. "I was by Santa Claus in front of Macy's when we heard, 'Pow. Pow. Pow,'" said Schwab. "People screamed and ran. I saw Santa drop to the floor."
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