News | Oregon

Mall Shoppers, Employees Recount Terrifying Afternoon

OPB | Dec. 11, 2012 8:52 p.m. | Updated: Dec. 11, 2012 10:39 p.m. | Portland

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Emergency crews respond to a shooting at Clackamas Town Center.

Emergency crews respond to a shooting at Clackamas Town Center.

April Baer

Police learned that a shooter was in the mall at about 3:30 in the afternoon Tuesday, when the first 911 calls started coming in. Kristian Foden-Vencil describes the experience of those trapped on a terrifying afternoon.

When the shooting began, holiday shoppers and store staff ran for cover.  They hid in back rooms, dressing rooms and bathrooms, and store managers locked down storefronts to wait for news that all was safe.

I spoke with Paul Beckett by phone from the scene. He works at Excalibur Cutlery & Gifts in Clackamas Town Center. He says the shooting happened very suddenly:   

“I was in my store preparing for a mid-day close, just the tills basically. We heard a lot of gun shots out front. Some of the glass railing in front of my store shattered. A couple of windows in some of the other shops shattered. And people started running around and screaming. They weren’t that scared at first. But suddenly people started ducking into places and diving on the ground and hiring.  The security guards for the mall came around to tell everybody to just go in your store and close up the front of the stores.”

Karen from West Linn called into a special live broadcast of OPB’s Think Out Live after the shooting was over. She was in the dressing room at Sears when she learned that something was going on.

“All of a sudden the announcement came over the speakers in Sears saying, ‘Everybody immediately get to the middle of the store. Stay away from the doors and the escalator and other entrances,’” Karen recalls. “So people just started running to the middle of the store.”

James Rhodes with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office takes questions from reporters.

James Rhodes with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office takes questions from reporters.

April Baer / OPB

Carol also called in to Think Out Loud and described the scene. She was at the Made in Oregon store across from the food court when she heard shots. She praised the staff.  

“I knew right away that it was gunfire,” Carol says. “There were folks who did not. They were going to go back out into the mall. And they stopped them and they told everyone to go to the back of the store and run. To run out and to get out. And I just cannot express my thanks to them. They were terrific.”

But another caller, Aaron, described a more chaotic scene. His girlfriend was in the mall.

“I got a call from my girlfriend this afternoon at about 3:30 and she was crying hysterically and wailing and screaming that she went to Nordstrom’s and she literally go stampeded over walking into it. The north side entrance and she was literally going and walking into the double doors and she said a stampede of people were running out. And people grabbed her and saidthere is a guy who is shooting in Macys and you need to get out. She rushedright out and a minute later she called me when she was in her car, she locked her doors and drove away. She saw a state trooper and an ambulance coming down 82nd. “

People left strollers, car keys and an assortment of other personal belongings at the mall. Authorities say they secured all personal property.  The mall is closed Wednesday.

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