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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 December 2007, 17:12 GMT
Gun rampage US teen 'wanted fame'
Robert Hawkins in undated photograph from Papillion La Vista High School
The gunman used a balcony to aim at victims, reports say

A teenager who shot dead eight people in a US shopping centre before killing himself wrote in a suicide note that he wanted to be famous, reports say.

Robert Hawkins, 19, from Bellevue, Nebraska, opened fire at the Westroads Mall in Omaha on Wednesday.

A woman who took him in after he left home said he left a note saying he was sorry for everything and did not want to be a burden to anybody.

Police say he probably fired more than 30 rounds from an SKS assault rifle.

Among the victims, six were employees of the Von Maur department store and two were customers, the head of Omaha police, Thomas Warren, said.

He said the gunman appeared to shoot at random and the incident was over before policemen, alerted by a 911 emergency call, could intervene.

Police have confirmed the existence of the suicide note, but not its contents.

Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman ordered flags throughout the state flown at half-mast with immediate effect.

Hawkins struck as the centre was crowded with Christmas shoppers, and witnesses spoke of people screaming and scrambling to find safe shelter.

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

Hiding

Witnesses said the gunman fired down on shoppers from a balcony on the third floor of the Von Maur store.

I heard screaming and loud shots being fired somewhere close by
Witness

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 toilet, 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."

Shocked people outside the Westroads Mall in Omaha, US state of Nebraska, after a shooting on Wednesday
Witnesses spoke of trying to hide as they waited for police

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'

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.

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

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".

The note went on to say he wanted to be famous, she said.

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.

OMAHA SHOOTINGS
map
The shootings took place inside the Von Maur department store at the Westroads Mall
Gunman Robert Hawkins began shooting from a balcony on 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


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VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Shoppers and staff run out of the shopping mall



SEE ALSO
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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