Shoppers and employees ran screaming through Westroads Mall in a prosperous neighborhood on the city’s west side and barricaded themselves inside dressing rooms after hearing gunfire, the Associated Press reported early Wednesday evening.
Omaha police Sgt. Teresa Negron said the gunman killed eight people, and then apparently killed himself on the third floor of Von Maur department store, media reports said.
Keith Fidler, a Von Maur employee, said he heard a burst of five to six shots followed by 15 to 20 more rounds, according to the AP. Fidler said he huddled in the corner of the men’s clothing department with about a dozen other employees until police yelled to get out of the store.
It was not clear when the gunman killed himself, Negron said in a Reuters report. She said most of the victims were shot inside Von Maur and that the motive for the rampage is being investigated.
The gunman left a suicide note that was found at his home by relatives, a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity told the AP. Omaha television station KETV reported that the note said he wanted to “go out in style.” The gunman’s name was not immediately released.
Shortly after the shooting, a group of shoppers came out of the building with their hands raised. Some were still holding shopping bags.
President Bush had visited Omaha earlier in the day for a fund-raiser, but left about an hour before the shooting.
The sprawling, three-level mall has more than 135 stores and restaurants, according to the Web site for General Growth Properties, the mall’s management company.
A witness, Shawn Vidlak, told the AP that the shots sounded like a nail gun. At first, he thought it was noise from construction work at the mall.
“People started screaming about gunshots,” Vidlak said. “I grabbed my wife and kids we got out of there as fast as we could.”