A family tries to flee a mall shooting near Portland, Ore. (Greg Wahl-Stephens )
Three people were killed, including the gunman, and at least one other person was wounded when a masked man opened fire during Christmas shopping season at a mall near Portland, Ore., on Tuesday afternoon, authorities said.
Police said the man who stormed into the Clackamas Town Center was dead, but did not say how he died.
A shopper in Macy’s who identified herself as Nina told TV station KATU that “the shooter jogged by, he was wearing all black, a white hockey mask, and he was holding an assault rifle up against his chest in plain view.”
Nina, who was in the perfume section by the mall’s common area, said that the gunman was running toward the common area mall and that the shooting started about 10 seconds later.
Other witnesses said he dropped his assault rifle when it appeared to jam during reloading.
The incident began about 3:30 p.m., and at an impromptu news conference shortly before 5 p.m., authorities said the shooter had been "neutralized." A half-hour later, authorities said he was dead.
The first officers to respond organized into small teams and ran into the mall, Clackamas County Sheriff's Lt. James Rhodes said.
Nicole Mason, 18, of Vancouver, Wash., told the Los Angeles Times that she was in the Things Remembered store next to Macy's on the lower level of the two-story mall when she heard a loud shot outside the store.
“We heard a really loud bang, and at first it sounded like something had dropped or something had shattered," Mason said. "About 15 seconds after that first shot, it was bang, bang, bang, at least 20 shots were fired."
She was with Seth Benson, 20, of Camas, Wash. When she dropped to the floor, he jumped on top of her.
"All I’m thinking is, 'Comfort her,’ so I laid on top of her and told her it was all going to be OK," Benson told the Los Angeles Times.
The Things Remembered manager told shoppers to head for a back door behind the register, shouting, "Go!" witnesses said. Benson helped a man with a prosthetic leg get up off the floor as he was being trampled.
They were outside the mall within 45 seconds of the shooting, Benson and Mason said. The parking lot was chaotic and clogged with people, and the first police officer arrived.
"It was pretty hectic, people were coming out crying," Benson said. "I talked to a group of girls whose mom was in there, and she was in the upper level, so there was obviously no exit for her to get out.”
Youssef Ibrahim, 26, of Milwaukie, Ore., told The Times that he heard the shooting as he was about to take an escalator down toward the Macy's from the second level.
“As soon as I heard the gunfire, I turned around and started running," Ibrahim said. "Some people saw me running and just started running. I started running. ... Panic, pandemonium, people running; I ran for my life. Literally, my wallet fell out. Thank God I have my phone on me.”
Bill Cameron, 49, of Portland told The Times that he was exiting the mall about 3:30 p.m. when he heard at least half a dozen shots in rapid succession. “I actually felt little puffs of air against the back of my neck,” Cameron said, although he didn't know if the puffs were passing bullets.
Another witness told Portland's KGW television station that the gunfire erupted in rapid succession as he was shopping for watches, and he and other customers ducked behind the counter before looking for shelter in dressing rooms.
At that point, an employee got an alert that the store was being evacuated, the witness said.
"It was like a dream. It was like, this wasn't really happening. But I knew I had to keep my wits about me," said the witness, identified as Bill.
One witness told local media that Christmas music had been playing inside the mall when the shooting began.
Two hours after the shooting, there were still 100 police officers at the mall, Rhodes said.
Authorities reported that a large amount of phone calls had jammed local cell towers, making phone calls to survivors difficult. Survivors who were unable to leave the mall would be transported to the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, police said. They asked witnesses who saw the shooter to come forward.
Family members seeking information can call the sheriff's office at 503-655-8211.
Andrew Khouri contributed to this report from Los Angeles.
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