The downside to tragic events like this besides the senseless waste of human lives, is that it’s just a matter of time before the media blames society and firearms for it happening in the first place. It can’t possibly be that this kid was a friggin nutbag with a couple of screws loose. Its because people picked on him and he was molested and his father beat him and a whole multitude of excuses that I would rather not go into here.
Next will come the articles on why firearms are to blame. For you blithering idiots that buy into that nonsense, I have news for you. The indians killed each other with knives, hatchets and bows and arrows, and they did it quite efficiently. Prehistoric friggin cave men killed with clubs and spears. Today there are many countries where firearms have been outlawed, yet the murder rates remain the same. Don’t blame the guns Blame the nutbags. JD
OMAHA, Dec. 6 —A video surveillance camera at the Westroads Mall here showed that Robert Hawkins entered the main entrance of the Von Maur department store Wednesday afternoon, looked around briefly and then left, before entering the store again six minutes later, carrying what was later learned to be a rifle.
“He appeared to be concealing something balled up in a hooded sweatshirt,” Police Chief Thomas Warren said at a televised news conference here today.
Mr. Hawkins then took an elevator to the store’s third floor, “and upon exiting the elevator, he immediately started firing shots.”
A few terrifying minutes later — which seemed endless to those who lived through it — eight people were left dead in the crowd of panicked holiday shoppers and employees, and Mr. Hawkins had turned the weapon on himself, dying almost instantly.
At the news conference, the chief was joined by the governor of Nebraska, Dave Heineman, and the mayor of Omaha, Mike Fahey, and together they provided a more detailed chronology of what took place inside the Von Maur store during the time it took Mr. Hawkins to carry out the horrific acts that have stunned this city. They also provided more details about Mr. Hawkins’ troubled life, and identified the eight people he killed.
“These were innocent people going about their daily lives, performing their jobs and shopping for the holiday,” the mayor said. “They were men and women who did not deserve the fate that they were given.
“This was an ugly act of cowardice.”
They eight victims included five women and three men, ranging in age from 24 to 66. Six of the victims were employees of the store, the chief said, and two were customers.
The shopping mall remained closed off as a crime scene today, and is not scheduled to re-open until Friday. The authorities do not know yet why Mr. Hawkins chose the Westroads Mall, on Omaha’s west side, or what demons he was battling when he wrote in a note to friends, in a haunting foreshadowing of what he was about to do: “Now I’ll be famous.”
“The shooting victims were randomly selected,” the chief said. Mr. Hawkins’s motives are not completely understood yet, the chief said, but he appeared determined to harm as many people as possible.
“We have not been able to determine why he chose that location, other than the fact that it was a very busy mall, a public place, “ the chief said. “Obviously we’re in the midst of a very busy shopping season. If you were looking to engage in mass casualty type of incident, you would choose a public place “ The governor said that Mr. Hawkins had been a ward of the state from 2002 to 2006 and had previous run-ins with the law, but had not been associated with violence.
Later in the day, Todd Landry, director of the state’s department of Children and Family Services, said that the state provided Mr. Hawkins with stays at residential centers and in-patient facilities and also at a hospital. The facilities provided him with addiction counseling, mental-health counseling and behavioral counseling, among other services, but he said federal and state privacy laws prevented him from being more specific about Mr. Hawkins’ problems.
Mr. Landry said in a news conference that one of the treatment periods came after Mr. Hawkins had threatened to kill his stepmother.
Court records showed that Mr. Hawkins had a felony drug conviction and that several misdemeanor charges had been filed against him, The Associated Press reported. Most recently, he had been charged with having alcohol as a minor, and he was due to appear in court in two weeks.
For the last year, Mr. Hawkins had been living with Debora Maruca-Kovac, whose son was a friend of his. It was Ms. Maruca-Kovac who shared with the authorities a note that Mr. Hawkins’s left her family.
“He basically said how sorry he was for everything,” she told CNN about the note. “He didn’t want to be a burden to people.”
Chief Warren, in the flat voice of a professional accustomed to recounting grisly details, said that Mr. Hawkins fired about 30 shots from an AK-47-style semi-automatic weapon that the police said he stole from his stepfather. He had two magazines with 30 rounds each, the chief said, that “had the capacity to fire multiple rounds in a short period of time.”
Mr. Hawkins made his way through the Von Maur store, past an atrium that opened onto the second floor, past startled shoppers who had been gazing at display cases, and toward the customer service area, where employees were wrapping gifts in festive paper. All the time, he was firing the rifle, the chief said.
While some customers dived for cover behind counters or in dressing rooms and others ran, many of the store’s employees stayed put.
The gunman “proceeded to the rear — he circled the atrium to the third floor,” the police chief said. A shot rang out from the third floor atrium, and hit a customer down below on the second floor, he said.
“There was not much conversation between the shooter and the victims,” the chief said. “The duration of this event only lasted a few minutes.
“Ultimately and at the conclusion of this event, he took his own life.”
Meanwhile, some customers and employees used cell phones to call their families and the authorities. The chief said the first call to 911 came at 1:43 p.m. local time, and the first officer arrived at the scene six minutes later. By the time the police descended on the mall in full force, the shooter had ended his rampage.
“It doesn’t appear there was an opportunity for mall security nor police officers to interrupt this incident,” he said.
For shoppers and store employees, it seemed like a long event, punctuated by more and more shots.
Janice Hopkins, 56, of Omaha, a former school teacher and corporate trainer, was at her job wrapping gifts — her fifth holiday season — when she heard “a funny popping noise.”
“Well, you think, ‘This is Von Maur.’ Von Maur is a very upscale, classy department store. I thought, ‘That’s not gunshots — this is Von Maur.’ ”
After hearing more shots, she said she surmised it might be a robbery, and because she knew cash was kept in the customer service area, near where she was, “my next instinct was to get out of there.”
“I went into the stockroom and hid behind some shelves. I grabbed a 19-year-old gift wrapper, got as far back as we could and got down,” Ms. Hopkins said. She said 13 of them hid in a small space.
“We could hear the shots coming closer. It sounded like they were on the other side of the wall.”
When the shootings were over, they made their way out of the store, which was by now a surreal scene strewn with the carnage of Mr. Hawkins’s actions. She walked past bodies of people she had worked with for years, some of them retired “well-educated” older women who worked at the well-appointed store “for the discount,” and younger people who wrapped gifts part time.
“There was blood everywhere,” she said. “We were stepping over blood all over Von Maur.”
Then she saw Mr. Hawkins’s body.
She said he appeared to have shot himself in the back of the head. He was not dressed like the usual Von Maur customer, she remembers thinking.
“My first instinct was that he doesn’t belong here,” she said.
She said some of those who were shot worked in customer services.
“They were like sitting ducks,” she said. “There was no where to go. You could tell they were trying to hide. I don’t think it’s sunk in that these women I spoke with 24 hours ago are gone now.”
A customer, Kevin Kleine, 29, hid in a storage room with her 4-year-old daughter, Emily, and four women she had never met, including an expectant mother.
“All I could think was where is he, what if he comes through that door, what if he comes through right now,” she recalled.
The group pushed every table, rack and garbage can they could find against the door and huddled behind clothes, making hushed calls to 911, to their husbands and to their parents.
Then began the long wait, Ms. Kleine said, 30 minutes, staring at that door.
It was believed to be the deadliest single shooting incident in Nebraska history. As the state’s most populous city with 419,000 residents, Omaha, along the Missouri River, has elements of urban woes like drugs and gangs.
“I’ve never even heard gunshots here before,” Ms. Kleine said. “Honestly, I didn’t know what they sounded like until today, and I thought I never would.”
The violent crime rate here jumped 7.6 percent last year over 2005, The Omaha World-Herald reported this fall. Over all, such crimes have diminished since 2001, the paper reported, noting that the violent crime rate was less than that of some other Midwestern cities like Des Moines and Kansas City, Mo.
Outside the house in Bellevue where Mr. Hawkins had lived, Ms. Maruca-Kovac, whose family had taken him in, said Mr. Hawkins had called her less than an hour before the shooting, she recounted. He apologized to her for all the trouble he had caused, she said, and he had left a note.
“We tried to get him to come to the house, but he said it was too late,” Ms. Kovac said. “When we heard about the shooting, I had a sick feeling about it.”