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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Omaha Nebraska Mall: Gunman Kills 9 Then Himself- UPDATED, Killer Could Have Been On Anti-depressants

A gunman opened fire, with a rifle, in a Von Maur store, at the Westroads Mall, in Omaha Nebraska, killing 9 people including himself and wounding five others, two of which are in critical condition.

Terrified holiday shoppers and workers at the Westroads Mall ran for cover, hiding in store dressing rooms, as shots ran out.

"There are a total of 14 people injured. Nine of those people are deceased," police Sgt. Teresa Negron told reporters.

She said the dead included the lone shooter, a man who suffered an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Witness reports vary, which is understandable considering the fear factor, one witness, Jennifer Kramer, said she was hiding in a men's room with her mother at Von Maur, said she heard 35 to 40 shots, another witness said they heard 3 pops and then another said they heard 4 or 5 shots.

Kevin Kleine, 29, who was shopping with her 4-year-old daughter, said she hid in a dressing room with four other shoppers and an employee.

``My knees rocked. I didn't know what to do, so I just ran with everybody else,'' Kleine said.

Keith Fidler, a Von Maur employee, said he heard a burst of five to six shots followed by 15 to 20 more rounds.

The Nebraska Medical Center states that some of the wounded were brought there but reports are conflicting on the condition of all those injured, although one man was in surgery for a chest wound.

The suspect was described as a young man wearing an Army- green vest and carrying a rifle, TV station KETV reported. Witnesses said the gunman fired down on shoppers from a third- floor balcony in the store, the Associated Press reported

MSNBC reports that last Friday night a grenade was found at the same mall.

Officers went to the northwest corner of the parking lot at Westroads Mall after someone reported finding an explosive device. The mall security directed officers to the area of the parking lot where the device was located. The Omaha Police Bomb Squad Unit was called and removed the intact grenade safely from the area.

The stress over the holidays sometimes overtakes the joy of the holiday itself and there are sites and resources meant to specifically help manage the stress associated with the holiday season.

No one knows the reason for this tragedy that happened in Omaha, but people need to be aware of their stress levels and keep the victims and their families of this horrible event in their thoughts and prayers.

UPDATE: KETV reports:

The shooter at Westroads Mall was identified as Robert A. Hawkins of Bellevue, according to the Sarpy County Sheriff's Department, and a suicide note said he was going to be famous.

Hawkins, 19, had been arrested on a couple of misdemeanors in November and was due in court this month. One charge included minor in possession of alcohol. He was arrested on Nov. 24. He was due in court for an arraignment on Dec. 19.

His landlord goes on to state that he was upset about being fired from McDonalds and was emotionally unstable.

KETV goes on to report that a friend of Hawkins claims that he was also on anti-depressants and had been bouncing from job to job and making "bad judgment calls".

Just as a quick sidenote, in 2004, the FDA voted 18-5, to require manufacturers of all antidepressants to add black box warnings to their product labeling. A month later, the FDA adopted the panel's recommendations.

The Label warning;

"Antidepressants increased the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in short-term studies in children and adolescents with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and other psychiatric disorders.

Anyone considering the use of [Drug Name] or any other antidepressant in a child or adolescent must balance this risk with the clinical need. Patients who are started on therapy should be observed closely for clinical worsening, suicidality, or unusual changes in behavior."

The warning specifically links antidepressant use to suicidal behavior in four percent of kids on these drugs compared to two percent for kids on placebos.

[Update] 6:33pm - More found at AP, KETV, WOWT-TV, and Fox.