People outside the suburban Portland, Ore., mall where a gunman opened… (Greg Wahl-Stephens )
A masked gunman stormed into a Portland-area mall during Christmas season Tuesday, shouting, "I am the shooter!" as he opened fire, a witness told the Los Angeles Times.
Three people were killed, including the gunman, who apparently shot himself, authorities said. Another person was seriously injured. Responding officers fired no shots, authorities said.
One witness told local media that Christmas music was playing inside the Clackamas Town Center when the gunfire began. Another said the mall Santa had to drop to the floor to take cover.
Austin Patty, 20, a Macy’s employee at the mall, said the gunman wore a white mask and body armor as he ran through the department store and into the mall's central court. He carried a rifle.
“He was trying to get to the mall to do a mall massacre,” Patty said. “It didn’t seem like he wanted anything to do with” the department store.
Before the gunman finished saying, "I am the shooter," Patty said, "the shots took over."
Officials think the gunman acted alone.
Authorities did not release the identities of the dead or the wounded Tuesday night. Mirabai Vogt, a spokeswoman for Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland, said the hospital had received one victim from the shooting, a woman in serious condition.
More than three hours after the 3:30 p.m. shooting, authorities still hadn't cleared the mall. After the gunman opened fire, customers and employees who couldn't escape took shelter throughout the mall. Police were evacuating them room by room.
Hannah Baggs, 14, told the Oregonian newspaper that she saw the shooter run into the mall from outside the building. Bob Schwab, a World War II veteran, told the Oregonian that he was "by Santa Claus in front of Macy's and we heard 'pow, pow, pow.' People screamed and ran. I saw Santa drop to the floor" to take cover from the shooter, Schwab said.
Witnesses told local media the gunman dropped his assault rifle when it appeared to jam during reloading. Police wouldn't confirm the type of gun he used.
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 Times.
The Things Remembered manager told shoppers to head for a back door behind the register, shouting, "Go!" the 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 shots as he was about to take an escalator toward 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 leaving 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.
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.
The mall will remain closed until further notice, officials said.
Officials asked witnesses who saw the shooter to come forward.
Family members seeking information can call the sheriff's office at 503-655-8211.
Times staff writer Kim Murphy contributed to this report from Seattle.
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