PORTLAND, Ore. — Gunfire rang out in the mall food court, instantly transforming a casual afternoon of holiday shopping into a nightmare. The shooter, armed with a rifle, was dressed in dark clothing and wore a hockey-style face mask.
As panicked shoppers fled for cover, workers ushered some into hiding places within stores, or helped them to the exits. The first officers to arrive formed groups and rushed into the chaos, rather than waiting for the more heavily armed SWAT team.
“If we would have run out, we would have ran right into it,” said Kaelynn Keelin, who saw a window get shot out and, along with other Made In Oregon co-workers, pulled customers into the store for shelter.
The quick mobilization of mall workers and police reflects the reality that, while mass shootings are rare, they have forced authorities to rehearse for such outbreaks of violence as if they are the norm.
“This could have been much, much worse,” Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts said.
Roughly 10,000 people were inside the Clackamas Town Center on Tuesday afternoon, when police say Jacob Tyler Roberts, 22, armed himself with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle he stole from someone he knew, and went on a rampage that left two people dead.
The sheriff said the rifle jammed during the attack, but the shooter managed to get it working again. He later shot himself. The sheriff and Roberts are not related.
As authorities tried to determine a motive for a shooting they said had no specific targets, details emerged about Roberts from acquaintances and neighbors. They described him as relaxed, friendly and outgoing.