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Omaha Teen's Shooting Rampage Kills 8, Himself


Authorities in Omaha, Nebraska, are trying to determine why a young man opened fire in a crowded shopping mall yesterday. He killed eight people, wounded five others, and then killed himself.

NPR's Jason Beaubien is in Omaha and joins us on the line. Good morning.

JASON BEAUBIEN: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Do police, as I gather, they do believe the shooting victims were entirely random?

BEAUBIEN: They do. Police last night held a press conference late at night and came out and said that they believe that Robert Hawkins was not targeting anyone in particular; that he simply came into the mall and started shooting. They say that men, women were targeted equally. They don't believe that he came in trying to killing anyone in particular. He just came in to, essentially, cause a massacre.

MONTAGNE: And what else do they think about him or know about him?

BEAUBIEN: Well, it's slowly emerging - a picture of a very troubled young man; born in 1987. He has just got a job at McDonald's, which he had just been fired from. He'd lost his girlfriend. He'd been kicked out of his parents' house and was living with the parents of some friends of his.

He did leave a suicide note. The police say they have that suicide note at this point. The woman that he was - had a room with, that he was staying with referred to him as being like a lost puppy that nobody wanted around. And she was the one who found the suicide note, and she says that that note said I'm going to famous now. And that police are interpreting that to mean that this was premeditated, that he wrote this note and then planned to go in and carry out these killings

MONTAGNE: In carrying out these killings, he managed to shoot quite a few people in a very short time. How did he do that?

BEAUBIEN: He did. He was using an SKS assault rifle. It's a rifle that was made by the former Soviet Union in the Eastern Bloc, a very powerful rifle. A rifle that's a semi-automatic; it comes with a banana clip. It can fire off quite a few rounds very quickly, and he able to target people inside the mall and shoot them with this rifle.

People say that he shot off numerous rounds, far more than actually hit people. But it does appear that he was aiming and targeting people when he did actually manage to shoot them and kill them.

MONTAGNE: And the wounded — five wounded - what shape are they in, as you understand it this morning?

BEAUBIEN: As of late last night, two of them remained in critical condition in area hospitals. We haven't yet gotten an update on their condition. But two of them were in critical condition. The other three were not with life-threatening wounds. Those three are expected to be fine, but there are two victims that are still being watched very closely in critical condition in local hospitals.

MONTAGNE: And that Westroads Mall there in Omaha where the shooting took place, will it be opened for business today?

BEAUBIEN: No, it will not be opened for business today. Police tape still surrounds the entire mall. It's a very large mall. They're treating it as a crime scene. It's a somewhat bizarre scene. The Christmas lights are still on on the Von Maur store, where this bloody massacre occurred. And yet, outside you've got this police tape; you've got police cruisers with their lights still going. And police say there's no way that that mall is going to reopen until they're done gathering evidence.

MONTAGNE: Jason, thanks very much.

NPR's Jason Beaubien speaking from Omaha, Nebraska. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Renee Montagne
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Jason Beaubien
Jason Beaubien is a Peabody award-winning journalist. He's filed stories from more than 60 countries around the world. His reporting tends to focus on issues in lower-income countries. Often his reports highlight inequities, injustices and abuses of power. He also regularly writes about natural disasters, wars and human conflict. Over the last two decades he's covered hurricanes in the Caribbean, typhoons in the Philippines, multiple earthquakes in Haiti, the Arab Spring, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the drug war in Mexico.
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