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Oregon mall shooting survivor shows compassion for gunman

December 24, 2012|By Matt Pearce
  • Kristina Shevchenko, 15, a victim of the shooting at the Clackamas Town Center mall near Portland, Ore., describes her ordeal to reporters for the first time.
Kristina Shevchenko, 15, a victim of the shooting at the Clackamas Town… (Motoya Nakamura / Associated…)

Days before the massacre of schoolchildren in Connecticut, another mysterious young man with an assault rifle attacked an Oregon mall, slaying two people and seriously wounding a third before killing himself.

This weekend, the surviving victim opened up about the Dec. 11 rampage at Clackamas Town Center in a Portland suburb. 

Kristina Shevchenko, 15, took  a round in her chest from an AR-15 assault rifle. The bullet fragmented and collapsed one of her lungs.

A doctor had told the Los Angeles Times that she was a "fighter" but that her wounds were more like those sustained by police or soldiers.

In a video interview with the Oregonian, Kristina said she'd been walking through the mall -- a shortcut home from school -- when she saw the gunman, Jacob Tyler Roberts, 22, come out of Macy's wearing all black.

She thought it was some kind of prank, that maybe the AR-15 was a paintball gun. When she realized it wasn't, he shot her as she ran away, she said. She hid behind a pillar, and when Roberts went the other way, she fled into Macy's. She passed out before she could get out of the mall, she said, but a woman named Amber helped her escape.

In the cold air, her wounds hurt worse, she told reporters at her home, her father by her side. She smiled while recounting points of the story but began to break down when she described her family arriving at the mall before paramedics could take her away.

"They said, 'It’s gonna be all OK. We’ll get you to the hospital and it’s going to be fine,' " Kristina said. She couldn't remember exactly what she said back, "but I think it was along the lines of, 'I’m scared and it hurts.'"

Roberts shot himself in the head, leaving his motives a mystery.

As with Adam Lanza's rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Roberts had no obvious connection to the site of his killing or a clear explanation for the attack. He'd broken up with a girlfriend fairly recently and had quit his job at a sandwich shop with plans to go to Hawaii. Friends said the trip fell through, and they didn't know why. Roberts stole an acquaintance's assault rifle and arrived at the mall wearing black clothing and a hockey mask and shouting "I am the shooter!" witnesses said.

Kristina said she didn't hold a grudge. "He might have had a hard life," she told KATU-TV. "I don’t know what his life was like or his reasons for doing what he did. So I can’t exactly blame him."

She lost her composure when she described a groundswell of encouragement from the community.

"I’ve had a lot of support from a lot of people. People were sending cards, calling, emailing, saying that they’re praying for me," she said. "That really helped. It’s a big impact. A lot of people were praying and keeping me and my family in their thoughts."

She grieves for the two people who died,  Cindy Yuille, 54, and Steven Forsyth, 45.

"It is hard to think that why they should have to be the ones that weren’t able to run away," Kristina said. "They were just passing by like regular, all other people. It shouldn’t be that they have to be the ones that didn’t get away.”

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