Jacob Robert was named as the gunman in the shooting spree at a Portland-area mall. (Photo: Clackamas County Sheriff's Office via USA TODAY)
John Bacon, USA TODAY
4:29PM EST December 12. 2012 - The masked gunman who shot up a crowded Oregon mall, killing two people and himself, was identified by authorities Wednesday as Portland resident Jacob Tyler Roberts, 22.
Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts said the shooter didn't appear to be targeting anyone in particular when he entered the Clackamas Town Center on Tuesday and fired as many as 60 shots.
"Every indication we have is that he acted solely on his own in carrying out this heinous, horrible crime," the sheriff said.
He said the death toll would have been higher had the shooter's gun not jammed and law enforcement not responded within minutes of the first shot. Still, the sheriff called the shooting a "heartbreaking tragedy by any standard."
The dead were identified as Cindy Ann Yuille, 54, of Portland, and Steven Forsyth, 45, of nearby West Linn. Kristina Shevchenko, 15, was in serious condition at Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland.
Sheriff Roberts said the shooter entered the mall with an AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle he had stolen the day before from someone he knew. He was wearing a mask and "load-bearing" vest -- but not a bullet-proof one.
The mall was packed with 10,000 holiday shoppers and store workers when the first shots rang out, the sheriff said. The mall is one of the biggest in the state, with 185 stores and a 20-screen movie theater.
When the shooting started, many of the shoppers immediately took cover or hid in stores inside the mall.
"Ten thousand people kept a level head, got themselves out, got others out," Sheriff Roberts said. "There are a lot of heroes."
The first 911 call came at 3:29 p.m. PT, and the first officers arrived a minute later, the sheriff said. He said the shooter began shooting near Macy's on the upper level of the mall. He said the gun jammed, but that the shooter was able to get it to operate again. He then went to a lower level of the mall and shot himself.
By 3:51 p.m., all the victims and the gunman and rifle had been found, Sheriff Roberts said. Four SWAT teams spent hours clearing the 1.4 million square-foot mall.
The suspect's vehicle, a 1996 Volkswagen Jetta found parked at the mall, and his Portland home were searched after the shooting, Sheriff Roberts said. An official said multiple rounds of ammunition were found inside the house.
A Google map photo of the address in southeast Portland shows a modest, single family home.
Messages left with members of the shooter's family were not immediately returned.
Austin Patty, 20, who works at Macy's, said he saw a man in a white mask carrying a rifle and wearing a bulletproof vest, and told the Associated Press that he heard the gunman say, "I am the shooter," as if announcing himself. Patty said he ducked to the ground as a series of rapid shots were fired, then ran to safety.
Alina Pavlenko, 16, who was working at a cupcake stand in the mall, said she saw the gunman shoot at a woman and watched her fall, then saw the shooter point in her direction and fire.
"He looked straight at me, and he aimed but he missed," Pavlenko told The Oregonian. She said she froze.
"He kept on shooting, and he kept on walking," Pavlenko said. "He wasn't running. He was walking so slow. He dropped the thing he used to load bullets, and he just slowly picked it up and put back in again."
Opinions vary on whether Tuesday's shooting was part of an uptick in mass shootings.
Thomas Blomberg, dean of Florida State University's department of criminology, says mass murders have been on the rise since the 1980s, according to his research. "It's just not a gradual thing," Blomberg said. "It's clearly a spike."
Based on articles and FBI statistics he's read, Bloomberg says there was about one mass murder per decade until the 1980s. Since 2000-2012, that number has climbed to 26, he said.
James Alan Fox, the Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law, and Public Policy at Northeastern University keeps track of mass murders dating back to 1976. He says there hasn't been an uptick in mass shootings this year and that shootings have been occurring in public places for decades.
Despite other differing views, experts agree that public shootings get more attention because they illustrate the general public's vulnerability in everyday situations.
"Public shootings tend to attract more attention and they do so because they could have happened any time, everywhere and even to me," Fox said. "In massacres in families, we can say that wouldn't be my family. In work place murders, we can say people at my job are content. The randomness of public incidents scares us all."
"I told the people around me that we had to leave now. I left my food and got outside just as the police arrived," Donohue said. "I just couldn't stop shaking."
Contributing: Yamiche Alcindor; Doug Stanglin; William M. Welch; Carolyn Pesce; Emily Gillespie, (Salem, Ore.) Statesman Journal; the Associated Press