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Shooting in Omaha (Part I)

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There was a shooting at the Westroads Mall in Omaha. From the initial reports, it doesn't sound bad, but these stories tend to change quickly. At least one injury has been reported so far.

There are actually a lot of shootings at malls--more than I blog about. In most cases, it's a one-off incident like a burglary or domestic dispute that happens to flare up in a public place. It would be sensationalizing to report every one of these incidents, which, most of the time, don't reflect on the quality of mall security.

But I put this one out there because it sounds a bit more ominous. The story describes a shooter hiding behind a bus stop decked out in camouflage. Some reports refer to him as a sniper.

So initially it seems like the intent was to wreak some serious damage and kill or maim a lot of people. That's the kind of event the industry needs to be aware of and figure out how to better prepare for. It also brings back memories of the mass shootings that occurred at Trolley Square Mall or Tacoma Mall.

I'll blog updates as they become available.

Wikipedia has articles on past shootings with multiple fatalities at malls include three killed at Ward Parkway in April 2007, several wounded at Hudson Valley Mall in 2005, five killed six injured at Tacoma Mall in November 2005 and six killed (including the shooter) at Trolley Square Mall this February.

Update 1 (5:03 PM): Now reports are that there are at least two fatalities and other injuries. Report says, "The suspect was described as a young man wearing an Army- green vest and carrying a rifle, KETV said."

Update 2 (5:14 PM): KETV is reporting nine deaths, including the shooter. That makes this the worst mall shooting on U.S. soil. In addition, there are several more injuries. A witness says they heard 35 to 40 shots. The report also indicates that a grenade was found at the same mall last week.

Update 3 (5:21 PM): KETV is streaming coverage online. Streaming video is also available at KMTV, KPTM and WOWT. Update numbers: nine dead, five injured.

Update 4 (5:34 PM): The shooter may have been a 19-year-old suicidal man.

Police told NBC affiliate WOWT-TV that the suspected gunman was a 19-year-old Sarpy County man who left a suicide note Wednesday afternoon stating, "I'm going out in style." That man's vehicle was found in the mall parking lot.

Update 5 (5:43 PM): The shootings occurred at the mall's Von Maur department store. (General Growth Properties owns the mall.) The shooter apparently took his own life. Police were on the scene within six minutes. Von Maur has issued a statement to the media:

"We are deeply saddened by the horrific shooting at our Omaha store this afternoon. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this tragic event, as well as their families. We are cooperating fully with the Omaha and Nebraska state police departments."

Update 6 (6:01 PM) Quote from David Keating, Vice President of Corporate Communications for GGP, "It's believed the mall will be closed for the rest of the day." Keating told Action 3 news his company's number one concern is to make sure everyone is out of the mall and out of the way. It was reported on KETV that the shooting was first reported to police at 1:42 PM local time. Yahoo has a slideshow up.

penney_photo (Source: AP)

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Update 7 (6:09 PM): Police have recovered the gun, according to KPTM. They also are saying they think the gunman had no accomplices.

Update 8 (11:22 PM): GGP has issued a statement.

Today's tragedy in Omaha, Nebraska, has been a horrific event for the entire community. Our number one priority has been to ensure the safety and well-being of the shoppers and employees of the mall. We are extremely grateful to all the law enforcement agencies for the leadership they have provided. Our deepest heartfelt sympathy and prayers go out to all the families of the victims.

Also, police have confirmed the name of the shooter. It was a local 20-year-old named Robert Hawkins. He had a history of depression. Apparently, he had just lost his job at McDonald's for stealing $17. The New York Times has a diagram of the property.

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Elaine Misonzhnik

Senior associate editor Elaine Misonzhnik has been writing for National Real Estate Investor since June 2006 and has covered commercial real estate for more than 12 years. She first became...
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