For Portlanders, more questions than answers are swirling around as the community struggles to make sense of Tuesday’s deadly shooting that left two dead and another wounded at a mall crowded with thousands of holiday shoppers.
Wednesday morning authorities presented a detailed map of the path of the lone gunman as he stalked through the mall with a semiautomatic rifle before taking his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. But Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts gave little indication of the suspected shooter’s motive.
Sheriff Roberts said the 22-year-old Jacob Tyler Roberts (no relation) drove to the Clackamas Town Center, on the southern fringe of Portland, Ore., and entered through the mall’s Macy’s department store. At the time, police say, he was donning a load-bearing vest and a hockey mask. He made his way through the store and to the mall’s food court and began shooting with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. At some point, the weapon jammed before the suspected shooter was able to get it working again. The sheriff said the suspect’s bullets hit three victims: Cindy Ann Yuille, 54, of Portland; Steven Forsyth, 45, of West Linn, Ore., both fatally; and Kristina Shevchenko, 15, who is currently undergoing surgery for non-life threatening injuries at a nearby hospital.
Suspected shooter Roberts then fled down a corridor then down a flight of stairs to a corner where he took his own life. It is unclear if he shot himself while being confronted by police or before they got to him. By all indications, he acted alone, with no known accomplices, and authorities have said he didn’t know the people he shot; they were merely random targets. Officials currently know little about Roberts other than an address listed for him that sits about two-and-a-half miles from the mall. He has no prior criminal history, and has had contact with police as a crime victim, as indicated in a police report, officials said.
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However police did say that the rifle used by the suspected gunman was stolen a day before from a person known to him, but their relationship is not yet clear. Police have also revealed that they don’t believe either Yuille, or Forsyth, who owned a business in the mall that sold customized drink coasters, were specific targets of the gunman. “It’s very apparent he had a mission set forth to take the lives of people in that mall,” Sheriff Roberts said Wednesday morning on the Today show.
Roberts said that lives were saved because of emergency procedures and previous training for this type of event that authorities implemented upon arrival. Though only two were killed in the shooting, Roberts underscored the tragic nature of the incident. “All of us have to recognized that this was a heartbreaking tragedy by any standard,” he said at a Wednesday press conference. “On the other hand, I think we all need to be thankful that this incident wasn’t much worse.”
He said police responded to the shooting roughly one minute after the initial 911 calls were made. The large number of officers who arrived so rapidly limited Roberts ability to move around the mall, coupled with the level-headedness of shoppers who either ran into locked-down stores or exited the mall, and the momentary malfunction of the firearm, helped to avoid further tragedy. “Taking together these four factors, it gave him less time to harm others,” Sheriff Roberts said.
Portland joins Aurora, Colo. and Oak Creek, Wisc. as the scene of another mass shooting at a public place committed by a person who left no indication of a motive for the crime.
A July 20 shooting at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight, at a theater in Aurora took the lives of 12 and wounded 58. The accused shooter, James Eagan Homes, 24, most recently appeared in court on Dec. 10 for a hearing. He awaits trial, charged with 24 counts of first-degree murder. On Aug. 5, Wade Michael Page killed six and wounded four in a rampage at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., before shooting himself to death.