The Westroads Mall shooting was a murder-suicide that occurred on Wednesday, December 5, 2007, at the Von Maur department store in the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska, United States. Nineteen-year-old Robert A. Hawkins killed nine people (including himself) and wounded four, two of them critically. It was the deadliest shooting spree in Nebraska since the rampage of Charles Starkweather in 1958.
Prior to the shooting
An hour before the rampage, Hawkins’ mother gave the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Department his suicide note which stated, “I just want to take a few peices [sic] of shit with me… just think tho [sic], I’m gonna be fuckin [sic] famous.”
Hawkins entered the south entrance of the Von Maur department store about 1:36 p.m. CST (19:36 UTC). After walking a short distance into the store, he paused for a second, then turned around and left. Returning six minutes later through the same entrance, he proceeded directly to the elevator at his immediate right, this time with a commercial copy of the AKM 7.62x39mm semi-automatic rifle stolen from his stepfather’s house, along with two 30-round magazines, concealed in a sweatshirt. He took the elevator to the top floor.
At approximately 1:43 p.m. CST (19:43 UTC), Robert Hawkins stepped out of the elevator on the third floor and opened fire. He killed eight people and wounded four others over the course of six minutes, before dying from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head near the customer service desk. He fired more than 30 rounds, striking 12 people. Six died on the spot, one died before reaching the hospital, and another died 45 minutes after reaching the ER of another hospital.
Omaha Police arrived at Westroads Mall about six minutes after receiving the first 911 call. During the entire 70 seconds of that first call, all the dispatcher heard was gunshots. Audio tapes and transcripts of the 911 calls, along with images captured by mall security surveillance cameras, were released by the police on December 7, 2007.
An autopsy of Hawkins showed that he had 200 nanograms per milliliter of Valium in his system, which is the low end of its therapeutic-use range (100-1500 ng/mL). No trace of any other drug was found in his system.
Mall shooting victims
- Gary Scharf, age 48, customer.
- John McDonald, age 65, customer.
- Angie Schuster, age 36, employee.
- Maggie Webb, age 24, employee.
- Janet Jorgensen, age 66, employee.
- Diane Trent, age 53, employee.
- Gary Joy, age 56, employee.
- Beverly Flynn, age 47, employee
Four of the victims shot by Hawkins survived. Two were critically injured were store employees. Fred Wilson, 61, was a manager for the customer service department. He was sent to the University of Nebraska Medical Center with a gunshot wound to the upper chest. By the time he reached the ER, he had lost three-quarters of his blood and had no pulse. Wilson was upgraded to stable by the following weekend, and soon after was making some attempts to communicate.
The other critically wounded victim was customer service employee Micheale “Mickey” Oldham, 65, who was sent to Creighton University Medical Center. She sustained heavy injuries to the abdomen and back, and, of the surviving victims, she suffered the worst injuries. On April 19, 2010, Ms. Oldham was fired by Von Maur for not being able to meet the requirements of her job due to her injuries sustained in the shooting. To this day she is unable to stand for long periods of time and was only able to work two four hour shifts per week.
Another surviving victim was customer Jeff Schaffart, 34, who was treated and released at UNMC for a gunshot wound to the left arm and the pinky finger of his left hand. The Omaha Police Department announced on December 22, 2007, that Mandy Hyda, 34, received a bruise when a bullet fragment struck her left leg. She was neither transported nor treated for the injury. It was initially reported that there were five people injured (not including Hyda), but two of those at the scene who were sent to local hospitals were sent for reasons other than being shot by Hawkins.
The perpetrator of the shootings was Robert A. Hawkins, 19 (May 17, 1988 – December 5, 2007). He was born in the Royal Air Force Lakenheath of Suffolk, England, to American parents Ronald Hawkins and Maribel “Molly” Rodriguez.
He was estranged from his parents and lived with two friends and their mother in a ranch-style house in the Quail Creek Neighborhood of Bellevue, a suburb 10 miles (16 km) south of Omaha. He was attending therapy sessions, taking medication and being hospitalized for depression by the time he was 6 years old.
Throughout most of his life, he and his family were plagued by his psychiatric problems. The day after he turned 14, he was sent to a mental health treatment center for threatening to kill his stepmother Candace Hawkins with an axe. Four months later, he became a ward of the State of Nebraska, which lasted nearly four years. He had undergone two psychiatric hospitalizations, and was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, an unspecified mood disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and parent-child relationship problems. His extensive treatments cost the state USD$265,000.
He attended Papillion-La Vista High School and later dropped out during his senior year in March 2006, but received a GED. Debora Maruca-Kovac, the owner of the house in which Hawkins lived, described him as “troubled”. She also stated that he was depressed over being fired from his job at McDonald’s, reportedly for stealing USD$17, and over separating from his girlfriend two weeks prior to the incident.
Hawkins was ticketed on November 24, 2007, for suspicion of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and two alcohol charges, one of which was underage possession of alcohol. He was due in court for an arraignment on December 19, 2007. According to local news sources, he threatened to kill a local teenager, because he thought she had stolen his CD player. He was also convicted as a juvenile of a felony drug conviction while in foster care in Omaha.
The Smoking Gun released a copy of Hawkins’ three-page suicide note which consisted of a note to his family, one to his friends, and his last will and testament, below which he signed his name and included his Social Security number. Initial news reports indicated that Hawkins wrote in his suicide note, “I’m going out in style;” however, the phrase does not appear on the publicly released document.
The day after the shooting, the Hawkins family released a statement expressing their condolences for the victims. On December 13, 2007, Hawkins’ mother issued a formal apology for Hawkins’ actions in an interview on Good Morning America.
Police: Nine killed in shooting at Omaha mall, including gunman
December 6, 2007
A 19-year-old gunman who killed eight people and then himself Wednesday at the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska, left a suicide note, police said.
Five other people were injured, and two of them were in critical condition, hospital officials said.
Chief Thomas Warren of the Omaha Police Department called the shooting “premeditated,” but said it “appears to be very random and without provocation.”
Surveillance cameras may have captured the shooting, Warren said.
“We’ll be here throughout the night; it’s a very extensive crime scene,” he said.
Police identified the gunman as Robert A. Hawkins of Nebraska.
They have recovered an SKS assault rifle and the suspect’s vehicle.
Debora Maruca Kovac, Hawkins’ landlord who found the suicide note, said he wrote he was sorry for everything and did not want to be a burden to anyone any longer.
Hawkins said in the note he loved his friends and family, but “he was a piece of s— all his life, and now he’ll be famous,” she told CNN.
She said Hawkins was a friend of her sons and “reminded me of a lost puppy that nobody wanted.”
He came to live with her about a year and a half ago, telling her he could not stay with his own family because of “some issues with his stepmother and him.”
She described Hawkins as well-behaved, although “he had a lot of emotional problems, obviously.”
The shootings began about 1:42 p.m. Seven people were found dead at the scene by officers arriving six minutes later; two others, a male and a female, died after being transported to Creighton University Medical Center, said Fire Chief Robert Dahlquist.
A Creighton spokeswoman said a second female was undergoing surgery and was in critical condition Wednesday afternoon.
Three other people were taken to the University of Nebraska Medical Center. One, a 61-year-old man who sustained a chest wound after being shot in the armpit, underwent surgery and remained in critical condition in the intensive care unit Wednesday night, said hospital spokeswoman Maggie O’Brien.
The other two — a 34-year-old man who was shot in the arm, and a 55-year-old man who fell and struck a clothing rack as he was trying to escape — were treated and released, she said.
Maruca Kovac told CNN that Hawkins left home Wednesday about 11 a.m., and called the house about two hours later, sounding upset.
“He just said he wanted to thank me for everything I’d done for him … and he was sorry,” Maruca Kovac said. He told her he had gotten fired from his job, she said.
“I said, ‘Come home and we’ll talk about it,’ ” she said. “He said, ‘It’s too late.’ He said he’d left a note explaining everything.”
Witness Jennifer Kramer told CNN she heard at least 25 shots.
“He just kept firing,” she said. She said she called 911 on her cell phone, whispering into it out of fear of being heard. A dispatcher told her other calls had been received and help was on the way, but she said it seemed to take “a long time” for them to arrive.
“It was just so loud, and then it was silence,” she said. “I was scared to death he’d be walking around looking for someone else.”
She said as she was being escorted out by police, she saw a man lying injured by the escalator where she had been previously.
“All of us were slightly confused because we didn’t know what it was,” said mall employee Charissa Tatoon about the first burst of gunfire.
“Immediately after that, there was a series of maybe 20 to 25 more shots up on the third floor.
“I was in the women’s shoe department and there was a gentleman coming down the escalator that was very near the shoe department, and he was heard saying that he was calling 911, and immediately after that, the shooter shot down from the third floor and shot him on the second floor.”
Warren, the police chief, said the victims included five females and three males, not including Hawkins. “We believe there was one shooter, and one shooter only,” he said.
Maruca Kovac said she was unaware Hawkins had any guns, although she said he knew a lot about them, as did his stepfather. “When he first came to live with us, he was in the fetal position and chewed his fingernails all the time,” she said.
But she said she thought he was improving, as he had gotten a job, a haircut and a girlfriend. However, she said Hawkins and his girlfriend had broken up in the last couple of weeks, and he had taken it hard.
She said late Wednesday that authorities were searching her house for evidence.
“My kids are devastated,” she said. “We’re all in shock.”
Hawkins’ former school district released a photo of a youth with glasses and long black hair. A spokeswoman said he attended Papillon-La Vista High School until he withdrew in March 2006.
Witnesses described chaos and frantic shoppers running away from the Von Maur store, where the shooting began just before 2 p.m.
“You’re in such shock, it’s hard to think. I was hoping God would spare us,” said a woman who was clutching a rosary in her trembling hand after the shootings. “We had to put up our hands and follow the police to the outside.”
Others described scenes of horror as they fled the mall.
Some shoppers and mall employees hid in clothes racks, dressing rooms and bathrooms after hearing the shots.
Most of the victims were shot inside the Von Maur store, Sgt. Teresa Negron said.
President Bush had visited Omaha Wednesday before the shooting.
“The president is deeply saddened by the shootings in Omaha, Nebraska, earlier today,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said.
“His thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families this evening. Having just visited with so many members of the community in Omaha today, the president is confident that they will pull together to comfort one another as they deal with this terrible tragedy.”
As news of the shooting spread, people gathered outside the mall, checking on loved ones who were inside.
The shopping center will be closed until at least Thursday, police said.
The shooting was at least the fourth at a mall or shopping center so far this year, following incidents in Salt Lake City, Utah; Kansas City, Missouri; and Douglasville, Georgia.
I-Reporter recalls horror of Nebraska mall shootings
December 6, 2007
Though tears, Kristy Wright said she’s not doing well Thursday morning, the day after a shooter took the lives of nine people, including himself, at an Omaha, Nebraska, mall.
“We were steps away from walking in there,” Omaha-area resident Wright says of the Von Maur department store at the Westroads Mall where Robert A. Hawkins, 19, of Bellevue, Nebraska, opened fire.
“I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the people who were in there.”
Wright and a friend went out shopping together, and were headed to Von Maur, but the two stopped short because Wright’s friend had to use the restroom. “Two minutes passed, or we would have been in there,” Wright says.
Hawkins shot some of his victims in the children’s department. “I always go straight to that department,” Wright said, “because I have a 9-year-old.”
Instead, she and her friend heard shots as they were standing inside the mall, just outside the doors to Von Maur. Wright described a sound unlike any other she had heard before despite growing up near hunting grounds in Minnesota.
“The gunshots were so consistent,” Wright said, her voice tinged with horror.
“I heard what seemed like the first four or five, then there was a bigger round. What we didn’t realize, what we found out later that night, was that we had heard someone being shot.”
A hide-out in nearby store
Wright said she realized what was happening and yelled, “There’s a shooter.” She tried to turn and run, but her legs wouldn’t move fast enough, she said. She said her friend was frozen in fear. Wright guided them both to a nearby jewelry store, she recalled.
Wright told the jewelry store employees what she had heard and asked if they would take the two of them in, she said. A manager showed Wright, her friend and four employees to a room in the back of the store.
Wright said she sat in the small room wondering if a shooter would walk in the door any minute.
“Now I know what it felt like at Virginia Tech,” she said. “Just waiting for your turn. Waiting for the door to fly open and for him to come in there, and it’s your turn.”
The ride home alone
The shooter didn’t barge in, but the police arrived. They gathered everyone in the mall together to walk them outside. Wright said she didn’t want to leave her small, enclosed hide-out.
In the meantime, Wright’s 16-year-old daughter was at home, watching reports of the shootings on TV. She knew that her mother had gone out shopping. Terrified, she called her mother, who reassured her that she was safe. Wright’s family also called from Minnesota. She spoke to her husband at work before her cell phone battery died.
“Everybody was borrowing phones, people were giving phones to each other. Teenagers that you wouldn’t expect to be so compassionate at that age — everyone was offering rides to people who were parked at a distance from JC Penney,” where police escorted people out of the mall.
Once outside, Wright had to make the 15-minute drive home to her family alone. “As soon as I got past the reporters and on to the road, I started shaking. It was a long 15 minutes. I just called my mother and talked to her the whole way home,” she recalled. “I had to talk to someone.”
Questions left unanswered
Wright said that she didn’t sleep much Wednesday night and neither did the friend who had accompanied her. “I called her this morning,” Wright said. “She said she kept waking up, trying to catch her breath throughout the night.”
Wright said her friend “is not the kind of person who shows emotion, but you can hear it in her voice, and you can see it on her face.”
Wright said she plans to go to the University of Nebraska at Omaha on Thursday for counseling. Wright has to drive past the mall to get to the school, a task she said she is dreading.
Mulling over the events of the day, Wright said there are many questions left unanswered.
“There was a woman in front of me in the checkout line at another store in the mall. She turned to her companion and said, ‘Let’s go to Von Maur now.’ “
This exchange was just before Wright and her friend stopped off at the restrooms. “I wonder what happened to her,” Wright said.
Omaha Gunman’s Note: “Now I’ll Be Famous”
8 Killed, 5 Hurt In Mall Slaying; 19-Year-Old Shooter Kills Self, Left Suicide Letter
Dec. 6, 2007
(CBS/AP) The teenager carried his rifle into the mall, passing shoppers and decorations.
The gunman stopped on the third floor and cut through the sounds with gunfire. Shoppers and employees at the Westroads Mall scrambled for cover in dressing rooms, clothing racks, offices and storage areas.
He appeared to fire without apparent motive or specific targets, reports CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds.
Eight people were killed and five wounded before the shooter ended the horror by taking his own life. He left behind a note that read, in part, “Now I’ll be famous.”
The victims’ names were given at a press conference Thursday by Omaha Police Chief Thomas Warren. The victims are aged 24 to 66, employees as well as customers, 5 females and four males deceased, including the suspect, Robert Hawkins.
The deceased include Gary Scharf, 48, of Lincoln, Neb, a customer, John McDonald, 65, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, a customer, Angie Schuster, 36, an employee, Maggie Webb, 24, an employee, Janet Jorgenen, 66, an employee, Diane Trent, 53, an employee, Gary Joy, 56, an employee and Becky Flynn, 47, an employee.
<style=”font-size: 8pt”=””>Omaha mayor Mike Fahey offered his condolences to the families of the victims.</style=”font-size:>
“There are no words to adequately express our feelings this morning,” Fahey said.
“I saw employees taking a bunch of people into the dressing room, but I didn’t want to go,” shopper Jennifer Kramer told CBS’ The Early Show. “I didn’t know if this guy was going to come looking for people in dressing rooms, so we hid in a pants rack towards the back of the men’s department.”
Robert A. Hawkins, 19, had a criminal record and had been kicked out of his parents’ house. Police have not said anything about the motive, but Hawkins had suffered a string of setbacks over the past year.
A family friend said he recently broke up with a girlfriend and got fired, and a source told CBS News affiliate KMTV-TV he tried, but failed, to get into the Army.
Hawkins was kicked out by his family about a year ago. He moved in with a friend’s family, and Debora Maruca-Kovac and her husband welcomed him into their home and tried to help him.
“He came to us like a little lost puppy. He was always very sensitive and caring, always wanting to know how everybody was doing,” Maruca-Kovac told The Early Show. “He just needed a chance to get on his feet.”
“We never saw violence in him,” she said.
She told the Omaha World-Herald that the night before the shooting, Hawkins and her sons showed her an SKS semiautomatic Russian military rifle – the same type used in the shooting. She said she thought the gun belonged to a member of Hawkins’ family. She said she didn’t think much of it – the gun looked too old to work.
Records in Sarpy and Washington counties showed Hawkins had a felony drug conviction and several misdemeanor cases filed against him, including an arrest 11 days before the shooting for having alcohol as a minor. He was due in court in two weeks.
Maruca-Kovac said Hawkins was fired from his job at a McDonald’s this week and had recently broken up with a girlfriend. She said he phoned her at about 1 p.m. Wednesday, telling her he had left a note. She tried to get him to explain.
“He said, ‘It’s too late,”‘ and hung up, she told CNN. She then called Hawkins’ mother.
In the note, which was turned over to authorities, Hawkins wrote that he was “sorry for everything” and would not be a burden on his family anymore.
Maruca-Kovac went to her job as a nurse at the Nebraska Medical Center, where victims of the shooting soon began to arrive.
“I was fearful that he was going to try to commit suicide,” she told The Early Show. “But I had no idea that he would involve so many other families.”
“I feel so sorry for him, that he was so lost and alone that he had to resort to this.”
The first 911 call came in at 1:42 p.m., and the shooting was already over when police arrived six minutes later, authorities said.
“We sent every available officer in the city of Omaha,” Sgt. Teresa Negron said. “They came to the mall in lights and sirens.”
The World-Herald reported that the gunman had a military-style haircut and a black backpack, and wore a camouflage vest.
Police Chief Warren said Hawkins “appeared to be concealing something balled up in hooded sweat shirt” on a surveillance video.
Hawkins opened fire in a Von Maur store, part of a Midwestern chain.
Mickey Vickory, who worked in the store’s third-floor service department, said she heard shots and went with coworkers and customers into a back closet, emerging about a half-hour later when police shouted to come out with their hands up. As police led them to another part of the mall for safety, they saw the victims.
“We saw the bodies and we saw the blood,” she said.
Keith Fidler, another Von Maur employee, said he heard a burst of five to six shots followed by 15 to 20 more rounds. Fidler said he huddled in the corner of the men’s clothing department with about a dozen other employees until police yelled to get out of the store.
Witness Shawn Vidlak said the shots sounded like a nail gun. At first he thought it was noise from construction work at the mall.
“People started screaming about gunshots,” Vidlak said. “I grabbed my wife and kids. We got out of there as fast as we could.”
A Von Maur store executive told KMTV it has a policy in place for such emergencies and employees, within the past year, had gone through training on how to handle similar situations.
Nebraska Medical Center spokeswoman Andrea McMaster said the hospital had three victims from the mall shooting, including Fred Wilson, 61, who was in critical condition early Thursday with a bullet wound to his chest.
Another critically wounded victim was at Creighton University Medical Center, spokeswoman Lisa Stites said.
On Wednesday night, police used a bomb robot to access a Jeep Cherokee left in the mall parking lot that authorities believe belonged to Hawkins. Officers had seen some wires under some clothing, but no bomb was found.
President Bush was in Omaha on Wednesday for a fundraiser, but left about an hour before the shooting.
“Having just visited with so many members of the community in Omaha today, the president is confident that they will pull together to comfort one another,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said.
Governor Dave Heineman has issued an order for all U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff effectivelt immediately in honor of those killed.
The flags will remain at half-staff until Sunday.
The sprawling, three-level mall has more than 135 stores and restaurants. It gets 14.5 million visitors every year, according to its Web site.
This was the second mass shooting at a mall this year. In February, nine people were shot, five of them fatally, at Trolley Square mall in Salt Lake City. The gunman, 18-year-old Sulejman Talovic, was shot and killed by police.
Portraits Of Victims Emerge
Victims Ages 24-66 Were Employees, Customers
December 7, 2007
OMAHA, Neb. — A woman who had just celebrated her golden anniversary, a woman adored by her nieces and nephew and a man who loved river rafting are among the dead after a gunman opened fire at an Omaha mall on Wednesday, killing himself and eight others.
Names of the victims were revealed by Police Chief Thomas Warren on Thursday. They are: Gary Scharf, 48, a customer and resident of Lincoln; John McDonald, 65, a customer and resident of Council Bluffs, Iowa; Angella Schuster, 36, an employee; Maggie Webb, 24, an employee; Janet Jorgenson, 67, an employee; Dianne Trent, 53, an employee; Gary Joy, 56, an employee; and Beverly Flynn, 47, an employee.
Jorgensen’s sister-in-law said the victim had three children and eight grandchildren. She and her husband had just celebrated 50 years of marriage. Her family said she loved working at Von Maur in the crystal department. She also did a lot of charity work. Her daughter-in-law said Jorgenson was friendly and outgoing, popular at work and everywhere else.
A family friend, three grandchildren and a son-in-law all shared memories of Jorgensen on Friday morning. They said she worked at Von Maur since it opened in Omaha, and that she had an impact on everyone she knew.
Grandchildren Ryan and Andi Husk, of Fort Calhoun, said they still expect their grandmother to call and check in — they have yet to accepted that she is gone.
“Grandma and grandpa were the definition of true love,” Ryan Husk said. “They were the epitome of true love.”
Andi Husk said she hopes her upcoming marriage will follow her grandparents’ example. She said Jorgensen was acting as her wedding planner, and she plans a tribute to her to be part of the wedding.
She said the family plans to celebrate a happy Christmas, too.
“We know that Grandma is really here with us, and she would be upset with us if we didn’t go on just make it the best Christmas,” Andi Husk said.
“Probably my youngest childhood memory is actually my grandmother rocking me in a wooden chair … and singing, ‘You are my Sunshine,'” Ryan Husk said. “I was probably 3, or so.”
Jorgensen’s visitation is scheduled for 2-4 p.m. Sunday at Heafey, Heafey, Hoffman Funeral Home. The Jorgensen family plans a memorial service later that night at St. James Catholic Church at 7:30 p.m.
The funeral is planned for 10 a.m. Monday at St. James.
Webb, the youngest of the victims, was just two weeks from her 25th birthday. She was a native of Port Byron, Ill. A friend said Webb had just moved to Omaha in November to work as a new “up-and-coming” manager at Von Maur. She was a cat lover. The Illinois State University Pantagraph reports that Webb graduated from ISU with a degree in business administration in 2005. She is the daughter of Dave and Vicki Webb of Port Byron.
In Moline, Ill, where Webb worked at another Von Maur, flags are flying at half-staff. Friends said the she worked here in the shoe department while in high school, transferred to Chicago and then to Omaha.
Ryan Mathias said he has been friends with Webb since high school.
“I’m angry,” Mathias said. “I’m angry at that kid. I don’t understand why he took something so beautiful from this world.”
Webb was a Moline High School honors student who was involved in student government and peer counseling. Educators there said they are stunned by news about one of their own.
“Teachers who talk about Maggie, they say things like, exceptional, caring, genuine,” said Principal Bill Burrus.
Scharf was a customer on the third-floor of Von Maur when he was caught in a barrage of gunfire. Gary Scharf’s family said her was buying some clothes before flying out on a business trip. His sister said he was a national sales manager for a life sciences company. Scharf grew up on a farm in Curtis, Neb. The family said they always gathered at the farm in Curtis to celebrate holidays, and had just done so this Thanksgiving. They said he was an excellent father to his son Steve, loving son, and a great family man. They said he had a “total love for animals and for the Earth.”
On Friday, Doris Scharf shared some of her favorite memories of her son.
“He took his teddy bear outside, and I said, ‘Where you going?’ And he said, ‘I’m going to show him to God,'” Doris Scharf said.
The victim’s son, Steve, said his father was his best friend.
Nobody is ever going to be a perfect father, but if my dad wasn’t the perfect father, he was my best friend,” Steve Scharf said.
Steve Scharf said he found out about his father’s death on Wednesday night.
“The last time we spoke on the phone, I was at work, and he said, ‘I love you. You’re at work and you think twice about saying it, and you know? I’m glad I did. ‘I love you,’ and that was important,” Steve Scharf said. “Geez, we talk to each other every day. I know we love each other, and I thought about saying, ‘We know, we don’t really need to say it.’ Now, I’m glad I never said that. 1 wouldn’t take back one I love you. What I wouldn’t give to talk to him once more.”
Joy’s mother, Inez, said her son visited often at the retirement community where she and her sister live. She said her son was pursuing a degree in literature at Bellevue University. She said her son loved to write poetry and stories.
She said he donated his organs. She called that typical of the way he always helped others.
“He was helping somebody,” said Inez Joy, 91. “That’s what he wanted to do.”
Joy said she will always remember the attention he paid to her. She said he always came when she needed help, and would often visit to have dinner with her.
Schuster’s family said in a statement that she was born in Dubuque, Iowa, and graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 1994 with a degree in education. She worked as the manager of the girls department of Von Maur on the third floor. She had worked at Von Maur for about 10 years.
“Angie was a very sweet and tender person and was loved by everyone that knew her,” the statement said. “Angie was a devoted sister and aunt. She was very close to both of her sisters who live in Nebraska. She was a wonderful aunt to her two nieces and her nephew. She really loved children and talked about her nieces and nephew all the time. She was in love with her boyfriend and very happy about the life they were planning together. Angie always kept in touch with all the friends she made throughout her life and had many devoted friends around the country that she knew from college and her childhood.”
Schuster’s older sister, Donna Kenkel, said they last saw each other Sunday at a child’s birthday party at the Omaha zoo. Her brother-in-law, Jeff Kenkel, said she and her boyfriend of about 18 months were planning on getting engaged and eventually getting married.
P.J. McDonald is a chaplain for the Clive Fire and Police Departments. He told KETV sister station KCCI on Thursday morning that his brother was at the mall Christmas shopping with his wife when he was shot.
“People enjoying their Christmas shopping on a pleasant afternoon, and then to have nine lives lost — one of them my brother. It’s a terrible thing,” McDonald said. “My brother was a gentle soul. If there was one thing that would be a characteristic of his, it was the fact that he did not like violence.”
McDonald said he hopes that people watching this story from around the world will take a moment to look at their own lives.
“I again invite people observing this to take some time and think about where we are with some of our violent acts that we no longer need to entertain, and just softening of the heart,” the chaplain said.
Despite his training, McDonald said he isn’t functioning well right now.
“I can be a chaplain for other people, but on my own behalf, I am useless. I am devastated by this horrible turn of events,” he said. “When I heard it, I had no response. I sat there and cried. That’s all I could do.”
The grieving brother said he remembers a wonderful soul.
“Happy memories of summertime, when we would go river rafting, the Salmon River in Idaho was one of our favorite places, we would go fishing or sometimes we’d just meet and just sit and talk,” he said.
Von Maur employee Janice Hopkins watched as the names of the victims were read on Thursday morning. Hopkins worked beside many of them, including Flynn — a mother of three and fellow gift wrapper.
“This was her second season. She was also a real estate agent — did this for Christmas because she thought it was fun and she liked the discount. Didn’t do it for the money, she liked working,” Hopkins said.
Dave Moody was Flynn’s office manager. He said she was a wonderful real estate agent and well-respected.
Counselors were expected at the NP Dodge office at 1 p.m. Thursday and employees planned to take a collection for the family.
Creighton University said two of its employees in the Undergraduate Admissions Office are mourning the loss of family members. Gail Bachtell’s aunt, Jorgensen, and Deb Kolar’s cousin, Trent, are among those who died.
Trent’s family attorney, Dennis P. Lee, released a statement.
“Dianne was the third oldest of six siblings. She leaves behind four sisters and a brother who loved her very much. She grew up in Omaha. She attended St. Pius and Marian High School and graduated from Benson High School. Dianne was a dedicated worker at Von Maur for the last eight years. She was a gentle, generous, soft-spoken woman who loved the Lord. Dianne enjoyed vacationing with her family. She loved the Christmas season and shopping. She lovingly took in animals. Anyone who met her loved her. She was a fabulous aunt to 10 nieces and 13 nephews. She will be greatly missed by her family and friends.”
Trent’s funeral is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Monday at St. Leo Catholic Church.
Creighton University Medical Center trauma director Dr. Leon Sykes said Joy was the first victim who arrived at their trauma center. He was dead on arrival. Flynn had a gunshot wound to the chest and minimal life signs, the doctors said, but emergency medical technicians were doing CPR and she was taken to surgery. After 45 minutes, she was pronounced dead.
Wounded Man Called ‘Joyful’
The wounded are: Fred Wilson, 61, and Micheale Oldham, 65, who were both critical but stable on Thursday morning.
At 11 a.m. Thursday, Wilson had been upgraded to serious. Doctors said he was hit in the arm and they hope to save the limb.
Speaking from the medical center on Thursday afternoon, Wilson’s family said their hearts go to the families of the dead. They said they’ve spent a lot of time with Wilson, and he reacts to them a little bit.
Family said Wilson loves his second career in customer service, after retiring from teaching in Iowa. They said his interests are wide and varied, and he is passionate about his hobbies. They said he’s a joyful person and it’s contagious.
Oldham had taken two gunshot wounds; one to the abdomen and one to the back, Sykes said. She was taken into surgery, and on Thursday morning was in intensive care.
Jeff Schaffart, 34, and Brad Stafford, 55, were both treated and released.
A fifth person hospitalized after the shooting apparentl had a medical condition unrelated, and was not identified, Warren said.