Omaha, Neb. The man who killed eight people and then himself in the Von Maur store at the Westroads Mall, in Omaha, Neb., entered the store and looked around before leaving and returning with an assault rifle, Omaha's police chief said during a press conference Thursday. Five other people were injured in the rampage, two of them are listed in critical condition.
Mall security officers noticed Robert A. Hawkins, 19, of Bellevue, Nebraska, briefly enter the Von Maur department store, Chief Thomas Warren said. Hawkins left the store and returned six minutes later concealing something—presumably the AK-47 assault rifle used in the rampage—under a hooded sweatshirt, Warren said. He then took an elevator to the third floor and immediately started shooting in the store's customer service area.
Warren said Hawkins apparently chose his victims randomly and spoke little or not at all while firing about 30 rounds.
Debora Maruca Kovac, Hawkins' landlord, said she found a suicide note after getting a phone call from Hawkins about 1 p.m., just minutes before the shootings. She told the Omaha World-Herald that Hawkins showed her an assault rifle the night before the rampage, but she wasn't alarmed. The newspaper also revealed that the shooter had recently been fired from his job at a local McDonald’s, accused of stealing $17.
Hawkins has a previous criminal record, including a recent arrest on suspicion of contributing to the delinquency of a child, being a minor in possession of or dispensing alcohol and being a minor in possession of an open alcoholic container, according to the Omaha World-Herald, which also reported that he was found guilty in 2005 of disorderly conduct and sentenced to seven days in jail.
Out of respect for the victims and their families, Westroads Mall will remain closed all day Thursday. The three-level shopping center is owned by General Growth Properties, Chicago, which posted a note of sympathy on its Web site. The developer also thanked local law-enforcement agencies for their help.
The Omaha tragedy was the second mass shooting at a mall this year. In February, nine people were shot, five of them fatally, at Trolley Square Mall in Salt Lake City. The gunman, 18-year-old Sulejman Talovic, was shot and killed by police.