Mom Hid Baby During Shooting Rampage

Published: Dec. 6, 2007 at 4:47 PM CST
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A mother and young son were in Von Maur Wednesday when the shooting started. Dawn Hovey says while hiding from the gunman, her fear grew when her baby started screaming and crying.

"I don't think I prayed so hard my entire life,” said Dawn on Thursday. She and son Nathan were on the third floor of Von Maur. “It was like a burst, like five or six at first. Then it sounded like balloons popping."

Dawn was standing near an employee and another customer, returning a pair of Nathan's shoes. "I don't remember if she said anything all. I remember is her ducking down much lower than I could get with a stroller and just shooting straight into the storeroom."

Dawn, an employee and a customer found refuge behind some stockroom shelves off the third floor. "Just surreal, it still doesn't feel totally real.”

For a second, they thought they were safe, but Dawn's thoughts quickly changed as Nathan started to fuss. "My son starting crying, like screaming."

And no one knew where the gunman was. "It was scary. I was thinking about putting my hands over his mouth and I didn't, I didn't end up doing that."

Amazingly, Dawn had the presence to distract her son and calm him down. “The lady behind me had some reading glasses in her hand. I grabbed her glasses and dingled (sic) them in front of him and the lady grabbed some decorations off the shelf and dingled (sic) them."

Nathan calmed down, though the danger was far from over. To the their disbelief, the shelves they thought would provide cover were not stocked.

"We were kind of sitting ducks if he were to come in that storeroom and come up those stairs. He could have shot open through the shelves."

Not wanting to return to the store area, Dawn frantically searched for a way out. "I turned and there was an exit sign down behind us, the red exit sign above it and I said, to your left, go!"

Using a back flight of stairs, Dawn and her son made it out as police entered. An ordeal that lasted only minutes, will in its horrifying memory, last a lifetime.

"God was definitely on our side that day. I wish He could have been on everybody's side."

Dawn says to her knowledge, her purse and cell phone are still in the Von Maur store, which along with the rest of Westroads Mall remained closed Thursday as police continue their investigation and processing of the crime scene.

The mall will remain closed Friday.

The president of the company, Jim Von Maur offered some words of comfort on Thursday and spoke of their plans to help the employees.

"We've made grief counseling services available for all employees via a dedicated, 24-hour phone service. We are working to establish a memorial fund to honor those who lost their lives."

Upon completion of the investigation, police say they will consult with store officials about when it will reopen.

Police are also talking about beefing up security for the remainder of the holiday shopping season.