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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 December 2007, 11:06 GMT
Gunman goes on rampage at US mall
Shocked people outside the Westroads Mall in Omaha, US state of Nebraska, after a shooting on Wednesday
The gunman used a balcony to aim at victims, reports say

A gunman has opened fire with a rifle in a shopping centre in the US state of Nebraska, killing eight people before fatally shooting himself, police say.

A further five people were wounded - two critically - in the shooting at the Westroads Mall in Omaha.

Police have identified the gunman as Robert Hawkins, 19, from Bellevue, close to Omaha. They said a suicide note had been recovered.

Hawkins struck as the centre was crowded with Christmas shoppers.

Witnesses spoke of shoppers screaming and scrambling to find safe shelter as the gunman struck.

He just stood there with his arm like this, his hand straight up in the air, shooting. And then I turned and ran

In a statement, President George W Bush - who visited Omaha earlier in the day for a fundraiser - said he was "deeply saddened" by the shootings.

The incident is the latest in a series of mass shootings in the US, which have reignited the debate in the US about gun ownership.

The Supreme Court will consider Americans' right to bear arms early next year for the first time in nearly 70 years.


The shooting in Omaha took place inside the upmarket Von Maur department store at the Westroads Mall.

Police were called at about 1400 local time (2000 GMT), after receiving a call from inside, said Sgt Teresa Negron.

Oct 2007: Asa H Coon, 14, shoots four people, injuring them, at his school in Cleveland, Ohio, before killing himself.
April 2007: Cho Seung-hui , 23, shoots 32 people dead on campus of Virginia Tech university, Virginia, then kills himself.
Feb 2007: Sulejman Talovic, 18, shoots dead five people and injures four at a mall in Salt Lake City, Utah, before being killed by police.

Witnesses said the gunman fired down on shoppers from a balcony on the third floor of the Von Maur store, using what police said was an SKS rifle to shoot at random.

By the time police arrived at the scene six minutes later, the shooting was over, she said.

Jeff Schaffart was shot in the arm as he spent his lunch break shopping with his wife, Reuters news agency reported. He said he hid in a Von Maur women's bathroom, using his tie as a tourniquet to slow the bleeding.

"I was obviously very fortunate. Not a lot of people were so fortunate today," said Mr Schaffart.

Chuck Wright was working at the mall when he heard a "pop pop" sound.

"A lady that I work with on the same floor, she happened to walk over to the [central atrium] and she was standing there and a gentleman walked up, and the shooter reached over the top on the third floor and shot the guy in the head."

Another woman also described seeing the gunman on the attack.

Robert Hawkins, undated handout from Papillion-La Vista High School
Hawkins appears to have had low self-esteem

"I went around and then I saw the guy in the children's department," she said.

"Big tall guy, real tall and he just stood there with his arm like this, his hand straight up in the air, shooting. And then I turned and ran."

Seven people were found dead at the scene, and another two died after being taken to a local hospital.

In an e-mail to the BBC, one Omaha resident, called Julie, said that she had been in a restaurant next door to Von Maur department store when the shooting began.

"Someone came in to the restaurant and advised that someone was shooting in the mall and to get out. Everyone started to run out of the small doors in Panera [the restaurant], so we were able to get out very quickly.

"I heard screaming and loud shots being fired somewhere close by. I got out of the mall before the local police department arrived."

'Lost puppy'

The gunman, Robert Hawkins, is said to have suffered from depression in the past, and recently lost his job at McDonald's and broke up with his girlfriend.


He was living with a friend's family in Bellevue, an Omaha suburb.

His friend's mother, Debora Maruca Kovac, told the Associated Press news agency that when he first came to live with them, "he was introverted, a troubled young man who was like a lost pound puppy that nobody wanted".

She said he phoned her about 1300 on Wednesday, telling her that he had left a note for her in his bedroom. She tried to get him to explain.

"He said, 'It's too late'," and then hung up, she told CNN.

In the note, she said, Hawkins had written that "he was sorry for everything, that he didn't want to be a burden to anybody, he loved his family, he loved all of his friends".

She said the note went on to say he wanted to be famous. She said she called Hawkins' mother, who came over and retrieved the suicide note, which she took to the police.

Map: Westroads mall, Omaha
The shootings took place inside the Von Maur department store at the Westroads Mall
Gunman Robert Hawkins began shooting from the third floor of the central atrium before turning the gun on himself
Seven people died at the scene, a further two died later in hospital

Shoppers and staff run out of the shopping mall

Omaha teen shooter 'had problems'
06 Dec 07 |  Americas
In pictures: Nebraska shootings
06 Dec 07 |  In Pictures
US Supreme Court ponders gun law
20 Nov 07 |  Americas

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