A young man wearing a Jason-like white hockey mask called out "I am the shooter" before firing a fusillade of bullets into a packed Christmas-themed Clackamas Town Center in Portland, Ore., late Tuesday, sparking a surreal, terror-filled ordeal that law-enforcement officials now say was a random act of violence.
Two victims died and another was badly hurt as mall-goers sprinted away from the gunman, who is reported to have calmly taken aim at shoppers, firing some 60 shots before turning the gun on himself. Police say the man, who died at the scene and has not yet been identified, acted alone while wearing camoflauge and a hockey mask similar to the one featured in the "Friday the 13th" horror-movie franchise.
The Christmastime mall attack occurred five months after a shooter who told police he was The Joker killed 12 people and injured 58 by opening fire at a midnight screening of the new "Batman" film in Aurora, Colo.
Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts told NBC's "The Today Show" on Wednesday that the mall gunman seemed to be aiming randomly at "anyone who was in his line of sight," adding that "it was very apparent he had a mission set forth to really take the lives of people in that mall."
More than 100 law-enforcement personnel flooded the mall shortly after the shooting began. They found a chaotic scene, with employees and shoppers cowering inside locked boutiques. Sheriff Roberts said the police response and the fact that the shooter's gun at one point jammed were two critical elements that spared lives.
Witnesses characterized the shooter as methodical in his approach. Teenager Alina Pavlenko, who works at a cupcake store, watched as the man shot a woman and then turned his aim on her, shot, and missed.
"He kept on shooting, and he kept on walking," Alina told The Oregonian newspaper. "He wasn't running. He was walking so slow. He dropped the thing he used to load bullets, and he just slowly picked it up and put back in again."