Holiday shoppers scattered in terror yesterday as a young gunman sprayed an Omaha shopping mall with gunfire, killing eight people and wounding five others before he fatally shot himself, reports the Los Angeles Times. The 20-year-old assailant, who wore military-style camouflage, opened fire from a department store’s third floor shortly after 1 p.m., targeting employees and customers with a semi-automatic weapon.
The shooter, identified as Robert Hawkins, left several suicide notes. Police and sheriff’s officers swarmed into the mall within minutes, tending to the wounded and ushering out dozens of panicked customers and employees who were hiding inside bathrooms and dressing rooms. The slayings came as a stark reminder that crowded American malls are potential targets for violence. In February, five people were slain at the Trolley Square Mall in Salt Lake City by a gunman who was then killed by police. An SKS semi-automatic rifle was recovered at the Omaha scene. ABC News reported that officials said the weapon had two loaded magazines taped together, which enables a shooter to reload quickly.