CLACKAMAS, Ore. – Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts said there were many who jumped into action to help Tuesday afternoon when a lone gunman opened fire in a crowded mall, killing two and seriously injuring another.
The shooter then took his own life by apparently shooting himself, police said.
"We had some true heroes stepping up," Roberts said during a news conference nearly five hours after the first shots were reported at the Clackamas Town Center at about 3:30 p.m.
Some emergency room nurses and a physician were at the mall when the gunfire erupted, and they immediately went to work to provide care to the wounded, he said. Others, including everyday citizens, also worked to help get the 10,000 people out of the mall.
"We have a young lady at the hospital fighting for her life right now," Roberts said about the seriously injured victim who was taken to the hospital. She was listed in serious condition Tuesday night.
Roberts did not offer specifics about individuals who provided on-scene help.
"The mall is supposed to be a place that we can all take our families. ... These things aren't supposed to happen," he said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families."
While police say they believe the gunman killed himself and no law enforcement officers fired a shot, Roberts said responding officers handled the situation admirably.
"I'm really proud of all the different agencies that came together to really step up and put their lives on the line," he said, adding that there were law enforcement officers at the mall minutes after the first reports of shots.
Four SWAT teams were quickly deployed, "basically to hunt down this guy in the mall," Roberts said.
At the height of the terror, over 100 officers from nearly every government agency – from the city to the federal levels – responded.
Now in the aftermath, the focus for police turns to the investigation. The job for investigators is to sort through the speculation to find the facts. It will be complicated due in part to the size of the crime scene – a mall which is about 1.4 million square feet.
Clackamas County Sheriff’s Sgt. Adam Phillips said investigators will work to sift through dozens of interviews with witnesses to create the most complete picture as possible as to what happened.
"There is a lot of speculation going on about what happened (and) what the circumstances were," he said. "Active shooter situations and tense situations like this get perceived many ways. ... We as law enforcement officers – our job is to collect all that information and make it into a cohesive idea of what actually occurred."
Police have tentatively identified the shooter, an adult male, but Phillips said they would not release his name until they were 100-percent sure of his identity.
Police also have not released the names of the victims, pending family notifications.
Because the investigation is in its infancy, Phillips said he could not delve into what type of weapon the shooter used or how many shots were fired.
"We're (the sheriff's office) are going to report on what we actually know, not speculation," he said.
He said the belongings that were left behind by mall patrons are secure, and the sheriff's office and Clackamas Town Center officials will set up a process on how they can be retrieved. He urged patience, however, because other aspects of the tragedy are of higher priority.
Phillips encouraged those who were witnesses and had not been interviewed to contact the sheriff's office at 503-655-8211. Or they can go to the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office website for more information.
Teams were still searching every inch of the mall late Tuesday night to ensure everyone is out and that the mall is safe. The mall will remain closed through Wednesday, police said.