A masked gunman has opened fire Tuesday inside a shopping mall near Portland, Oregon, leaving two people dead before shooting himself to death. The incident forced the mall staff and hundreds of Christmas shoppers inside the mall to escape or hide behind store displays.
According to reports, the shooting incident occurred as the Clackamas Town Centre, situated in southern Portland, was packed with people busy shopping for Christmas season.
Authorities said that one other person was seriously wounded in the shooting and flown by helicopter to a nearby hospital.
The disguised gunman shot himself after the firing spree and law enforcement officers, who reached the scene, found him dead.
According to shoppers who saw him, the man was short, dark haired, wearing a white mask and carrying a rifle. He shouted out, “I am the shooter,” and then fired a series of rounds in brief succession.
Brance Wilson, the mall Santa, told reporters that he heard the gunshots and reclined on the floor. He stood up after sometime and ran to the door and saw that everyone around him had gone and products were scattered in some stores.
Wilson also said that the mall’s Santa will be soon back and that the tragic event will not keep him away from the mall.
Police officials cordoned off the area and emergency medical teams, accompanied by law enforcers, searched the mall for shoppers hiding in. The shooter’s gun was recovered, but police said they were still looking out for more evidence.
"We know of several groups of employees that have locked themselves in break rooms and bathrooms," Lt James Rhodes said, according to BBC. "One at a time, very carefully, we are addressing each of those groups."
Authorities did not immediately release the identities of the dead and injured.
Oregon governor John Kitzhaber issued a statement in which he expressed solidarity with the victims and their families.
"My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families... I have directed State Police to make any and all necessary resources available to local law enforcement.”
Law enforcement authorities said they have tentatively established the gunman’s identity, but would not make it public until final confirmation.