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POSTED: 3:21 pm EST December 5, 2007
OMAHA, Neb. — A teenage gunman opened fire in a busy mall near Omaha Wednesday, killing nine people before turning the weapon on himself.
The shooter at Westroads Mall was identified by the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office as Robert Hawkins, of Bellevue, Neb., TV station KETV reported.
Hawkins had been arrested on at least two misdemeanors in November and was due in court this month.
Sarpy deputies said they were getting a warrant to search Hawkins’ home.
Shortly after the shooting, Hawkins’ mother walked into its office with a note that “could be interpreted as suicidal,” the sheriff’s office said.
KETV reported that the note left with the Sarpy sheriff’s office said Hawkins wanted to “go out in style.”
It also reportedly said Hawkins was “going to go out and be famous.”
Yost said Sarpy County is working with Omaha police.
A friend of Hawkins told KETV that Hawkins had been on antidepressants, staying with friends and bouncing from job to job.
Staying With Friend
KETV reported that it had talked with a woman named Debra, at whose home Hawkins was staying. He was apparently friends with Debra’s sons, and she offered her home to give him stability.
She was quoted as calling Hawkins, who she called Robbie, a troubled kid who had recently been fired from a job at McDonald’s.
Deborah said that she believed Hawkins stole the gun from his step-father.
Debra said Hawkins was coming out of his room Wednesday morning when she last saw him.
“He said he’d gotten fired and was pretty upset and said, ‘This is the only way,’ and we tried to talk to him,” Debra said. “He was just a very troubled — I had no idea that he was this troubled.”
Debra said she saw Hawkins with a gun Tuesday night and thought he and her sons were going hunting, which they did quite often.
‘Anything But A Terrorist’
Another friend, Andrew Bigler, said that Hawkins was “an awesome kid” and that he loved him like a brother.
“Robbie was anything but a terrorist,” he said, and said he didn’t think Hawkins was filled with anger, just that he was an average teenager with average problems.
Other friends told KETV that Hawkins was a funny person who liked to make others laugh.
The shooting happened at about 2 p.m., with the first call coming to police at 1:42 p.m., KETV reported.
Shoppers described a scene of chaos and panic when the shooting started, with people sprinting through stores and corridors, and some hiding in closets.
Jennifer Kramer, a witness, told KETV that she heard 35 to 40 shots as she was taking cover inside the mall. Kramer’s mother, who was with her, said she “just kept hoping God would spare us.”
Keith Fidler, a Von Maur store employee, told The Associated Press he heard a burst of five to six shots followed by 15 to 20 more shots. Fidler said he huddled in the corner of the men’s clothing department with about a dozen other employees until police yelled to get out of the store.
KETV reported that the shooting started near the customer service area on the third level of the store. The Associated Press reported that witnesses said the shooter opened fire with a rifle, firing down from a third-floor balcony.
One witness told KETV that she saw bodies and blood in a store. Another said she saw a tall gunman in the children’s department of a department store. She said he was a tall man, holding his arm up in the air and firing.
First responders could be seen escorting people from the building. Its surrounding parking lots were filled with emergency vehicles, evacuated shoppers and onlookers.
The eight victims have not been identified. Five other people were injured in the shooting and two are listed in critical condition at an area hospital, police Sgt. Teresa Negron said.
She said it appeared the gunman took his own life.
The Westwood Mall, in Douglas County, has more than 135 stores and restaurants, according to the Web site for General Growth Properties, the manager of the mall. It gets 14.5 million visitors every year, according to the Web site.
Police said the mall has been evacuated and will be closed Thursday.
Bush In Omaha Earlier
President George W. Bush, who left Omaha just an hour before the shooting started, sent a message to Omahans on Wednesday night.
“The president is deeply saddened by the shootings in Omaha, Neb., earlier today,” a statement said. “His thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families this evening. Having just visited with so many members of the community in Omaha today, the president is confident that they will pull together to comfort one another as they deal with this terrible tragedy.”
Mall Shooter’s Mother: ‘Dear God, No!’
By CHRIS FRANCESCANI & JIM VOJTECH
Dec. 13, 2007
It was the first, anguished thought that sprung to the mind of the mother of the Omaha mall sniper Robert Hawkins when she realized her son was the killer.
“Dear God, no!,” Maribel Rodriguez repeated Thursday morning in an exclusive interview with Diane Sawyer on “Good Morning America”
“No, not him,” she said, carefully framing her thoughts at that moment. “He is NOT doing this!” she said emphatically, then sighed deeply.
Rodriguez said her son’s life had been a challenge from the start. She divorced Hawkins’ father when the boy was 3-years-old, she said, and by 5 he was taking prescription Ritalin and Zoloft. She said she watched, feeling helpless the way a parent can, as raw anger took root inside her son.
First there were fights at school, she said. Then he was caught smoking cigarettes. Then marijuana.
He became a ward of the state in 2002 after apparently threatening his stepmother. He was moved through facilities and foster homes for several years, until he was released in 2005. Two weeks before the shooting rampage, Hawkins parted ways with his girlfriend.
Rodriguez said she sympathizes deeply with the families of her son’s victims.
“I’m not a dictator, so I can’t tell you what to think,” Rodriguez said on ‘Good Morning America’ Thursday. “But as his mother I loved him, deeply and without end. If you want to hate Rob, hate Rob,” she continued. “You don’t need that type of pain. It destroys your soul.”
She said she, too, feels the enormity of the tragedy.
Mall Shooting Surveillance Video
“It’s massive,” she told Sawyer, her eyes widening. “It’s massive. It’s turmoil. It’s confusion. It’s…absolute devastation.”
Hawkins killed eight people before turning a gun on himself and committing suicide. Two more of the funerals for his victims were conducted Tuesday.
“There were nine worlds shattered,” the Rev. Donald Shane told mourners at St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church during a service for victim Angie Schuster, according to the Associated Press. “The worlds of Beverly Flynn. And Janet Jorgensen. And Gary Joy. And John McDonald, my classmate. And Gary Scharf. And Dianne Clavin Trent. And Maggie Webb. And our Angie.