Leaders Address Murders
The names of the victims of Wednesday's shooting rampage at Westroads Mall were released Thursday. Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey said, "There are no words to adequately express our feelings this morning."
The mayor said this is one of the most horrific events to ever happen in the state. He expressed condolences to the families of the victims.
"The impact of this event is being felt far outside of Omaha," he said.
The victims have been identified as:
Gary Scharf, 4-5-59, customer from Lincoln
John McDonald, 4-18-42, customer from Council Bluffs
Angie Schuster, 2-14-71, employee
Maggie Webb, 12-19-82, employee
Janet Jorgensen, 6-22-41, employee
Diane Trent, 9-12-54, employee
Gary Joy, 3-12-51, employee
Beverly Flynn, 1-28-60, employee
Robert Hawkins, 5-17-88
Fred Wilson, 9-28-46, employee - Critical but stable condition
Michelle Oldham, 10-7-42, employee - Critical but stable condition
Jeff Schafford, 10-30-73, customer - Treated and Released
Brad Stafford, 4-9-52, customer
The fifth victim injured was not identified.
Governor Dave Heineman was also on hand for the news conference. He said he was shocked by the incident and ordered flags in the state to be flown at half staff in memory of the victims.
The governor thanked the people of the state for pulling together during this tragedy. "I believe that pulling together to help one another is what we do best as Nebraskans."
Robert Hawkins opened fire at the Von Maur store in the Westroads Mall on Wednesday afternoon. He killed eight people and then shot himself to death.
The victims ranged in age from 24 to 66. Six of them were employees of Von Maur. Five women and four men died, including Hawkins. It was Nebraska's deadliest rampage since Charles Starkweather's 1958 killing spree.
Von Maur president Jim Von Maur said Von Maur is deeply saddened by the shooting and said, "we continue to pray for the victims."
Police Chief Thomas Warren said officers are still processing the crime scene. He said police believe that Hawkins stole the AK-47 rifle from his stepfather.
The AK-47 is a powerful Russian Army-style rifle designed as an efficient killing machine.
Police are still working to determine exactly how many shots were fired, but believe Hawkins fired about 30 rounds and was prepared to inflict even more carnage.
"There were two 30-round magazines," said Chief Warren. "They had the capacity to fire multiple rounds in a short period of time."
The chief said, "It doesn't appear there was much conversation between the suspect and the victims. It appeared very random and the duration of the event lasted only a few minutes."
The mayor says he will be working with police to discuss what can be done to improve security at Omaha malls for the remainder of the holiday season.
Chief Warren says there were no off-duty police officers on duty at Westroads during the incident, but patrols will increase throughout the holidays.
"Officers are trained to engage an active shooter," says Chief Warren. "It appears that shots had concluded by the time officers arrived. So it doesn't appear that there was an opportunity for mall security, nor police officers to interrupt this incident."
The chief says Hawkins walked into the main entrance of Von Maur on the second floor, left the building and then returned six minutes later. The shooting began shortly afterward.
Governor Heineman said state records indicate that Hawkins became a ward of the state on September 17, 2002 and custody was terminated in 2006.
Officials with the Department of Health and Human Services held a news conference Thursday afternoon outlining some of the history that Robert Hawkins had as a ward of the state.
Todd Landry, with Children and Family Services, said some of the information is privileged but he said, "This tragedy was not a failure of the system to provide appropriate quality services for a youth that needed it."
Landry said that over the years, the state spent $265,000 on services for Hawkins.
The massacre took place just an hour after President Bush had left Omaha. He was in town to promote health care and help raise money for Senate candidate Mike Johanns.
The president said Thursday his sympathies are with the people of Omaha.
"I send my sympathies to the families of those murdered in Omaha, Nebraska yesterday. I was in Omaha just before the shooting took place and I know what a difficult day it is for that fine community.
The victims and their loved ones are in the prayers of Americans. The federal government stands ready to help in any way we can. And our whole nation grieves with the people of Omaha."