CLACKAMAS, Ore. – A gunman opened fire Tuesday in a busy Clackamas shopping center, leaving the shooter and two others dead and forcing the mall's Santa Claus and hundreds of Christmas shoppers and employees to flee or hide among store displays.
The shooting happened around 3:30 p.m. at the Clackamas Town Center. The Clackamas County Sheriff's Office immediately received a flurry of 9-1-1 calls and dispatched deputies to the scene where they divided up into small teams to track down the shooter.
The gunman shot and killed two people and critically injured a third person before turning the gun on himself, Clackamas County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. James Rhodes told reporters outside the mall. He added that no deputies fired their weapons during the incident.
At a news conference later in the evening, Clackamas County Sheriff Craig 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, Roberts said, to "basically hunt down this guy in the mall."
At the height of the terror, over 100 officers from nearly every government agency - from the city to the federal levels - responded. Deputies searched the mall room by room looking for anyone who might be injured or hiding. By 6:30 p.m. they had searched almost the entire building. "We will search this mall until we are certain it is secure and everyone has been removed," Rhodes said at the time.
At this point, investigators have not yet released any details about the suspect or two victims who were killed. All they have said is that the shooter was an adult male.
The victim who survived is Kristina Shevchenko and she is in "serious" condition, according to Oregon Health & Science University, where she is being treated. Her age was not specified.
Shevchenko was hit several times by gunfire and arrived at the hospital between 5:15 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., roughly two hours after the shooting began. Doctors did not say exactly how many gunshot wounds she suffered or where those wounds are located.
"We have a young lady in the hospital fighting for her life right now," Roberts said on Tuesday.
Wednesday morning, a note regarding the shooting was posted on the Clackamas Town Center's Facebook page:
Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who was in the mall at the time of this unfortunate incident. We are grateful to have the stellar support of all the law enforcement agencies and rescue personnel in the area, who immediately took action and continue to ensure the safety of everyone remaining at the property. The mall will remain closed tomorrow, Wednesday, December 12.
Governor Kitzhaber ordered flags at public institutions to be immediately lowered to half staff on Wednesday in honor of the shooting victims. “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and their friends during this very difficult time,” Governor Kitzhaber said in an email. “I would also like to thank the first responders and the many citizens who helped protect those at risk.”
The Clackamas County Sheriff's Office is asking any witnesses or anyone with information about the shooting to call them at 503-723-4949 or go to this web page to submit a tip.
WITNESSES DESCRIBE THE SCENE
Holly Bautista, 28, said she was shopping at Macy's for a Christmas dress for her daughter when she heard pops that sounded like firecrackers.
"I heard people running and screaming and saying 'Get out, there's somebody shooting," she said.
Bautista said hundreds of shoppers and mall employees started running, and she and dozens of other people were trying to escape through a department store exit.
KATU Reporter Anna Canzano said her husband, Oregonian sports columnist John Canzano, was pulling up to the mall when the shooting happened. He said people reported hearing around 60 shots from the food court.
A man who has played Santa at the mall for 11 years said he heard more than a dozen shots that were clearly from a semi-automatic weapon.
"I hit the floor inside the set and fortunately there weren't too many kids or people in the set area," said the man, who would only give his name as 'Kris Kringle.'
Austin Patty, 20, who works at Macy's, said he saw a man in a white mask carrying a rifle and wearing a vest. He said he heard the gunman say "I am the shooter," as if announcing himself.
Police later clarified the suspect was not wearing a bulletproof vest.
A series of rapid-fire shots in short succession followed as Christmas music played. Patty said he ducked to the ground and then ran.
Amber Tate said she was coming out of Macy’s and standing by her car when she spotted a gunman who looked like a teenager.
Tate, who didn't hear any shots fired, said at first she thought the gunman was wearing a paintball vest.
"But then I saw all these people running out screaming and people grabbing their kids and crying and trying to get into their cars as fast as they could," she said.
Nadia Teleguz, who was in the mall at the time of the shooting, said a family friend was shot by the gunman.
"My friend's sister got shot," Teleguz said. "She's on her way to OHSU. They're saying she got shot in her side and so it's not life-threatening, so she'll be OK."
As of Tuesday evening, the woman was listed in stable condition at the hospital.
Marin Torres, Jr.
An employee at a store in the mall, Evan Walters, was locked inside a store with about 10 others just a few feet away from where the shooting happened. Walters said at least 20 shots were fired.
"It was kind of surreal because we hear pops and loud noises all the time because we're right here by the food court, but it's never been anything like that,” he said. “It was very definite gun shots. I think most all of us knew it was gunshots. There really was no rhyme or reason to them. There were many in a row."
Walters said he saw two people who had been shot and killed. He and other store employees brought out sheets from the store to place over the victims.
"Everyone's just trying to stick together and be as calm as possible for people ... I don't know what else to say,” Walters said. “It's just kind of scary. We're just trying to be as strong as we can and hopefully we'll be out of this as soon as possible."
Shaun Wik, 20, from Fairview, said he was Christmas shopping with his girlfriend and opened a fortune cookie at the food court. Inside was written: "Live for today. Remember yesterday. Think of tomorrow." As he read it, he heard three shots and a man he believes was the gunman shout, "Get down!"
Wik and his girlfriend ran and he heard seven or eight more shots. He didn't turn around.
"If I had looked back, I might not be standing here," he said. "I might have been one of the ones who got hit."
"We had some true heroes stepping up," Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts said during a news conference nearly five hours after the first shots were reported at the Clackamas Town Center.
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.
IN THE AFTERMATH
Witnesses still sought
Lt. Rhodes said anyone who witnessed the shooting should get in contact with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office by calling (503) 655-8211.
The Clackamas Town Center will be closed on Wednesday. Clackamas Town Center management said they plan to post information for stores, employees and shoppers on their website. They will also post information so people who left belongings in the mall can retrieve them.
TriMet service will be impacted on Wednesday.
- MAX Green Line riders will need to board or de-board trains at the Southeast Fuller Road MAX station.
- Riders will not be allowed into the Clackamas Town Center Transit Center MAX Station. The parking garage at the transit center will also be closed.
- Parking spaces will be limited at the Fuller Road Park & Ride. Riders should use the Holgate Blvd. or Powell Blvd. Park & Rides.
- The 10 TriMet bus lines that service the Clackamas Town Center Transit Center and other bus stops in the mall's parking lot will continue to be detoured. The buses will serve temporary stops on Monterey Avenue, near the parking lot entrance by the movie theater, and at the Fuller Street MAX Station. The lines being detoured are: 28, 29, 30, 31, 71, 72, 79, 152, 155 and 156.
Interior map of the Clackamas Town Center