Sharon Baggs and her daughter made it out of the mall just in time.
The southeast Portland, Ore., woman just had a quick errand to run at the Clackamas Town Center on Tuesday afternoon, and she and the girl zipped in and out, Baggs told The Daily Beast.
As they reached the entrance near Macy’s, Baggs’ 14-year-old daughter, Hannah, saw a man running past her, just inside the front door. He was wearing a white mask, she told her mom, and he had “something heavy” in his hands.
Moments later, the two found themselves crouched down in their car in the parking lot, worried a stray bullet might fly through the window, as that masked gunman terrorized hundreds inside the mall. Clackamas County sheriff’s officials said the shooter killed two people Tuesday and wounded a third, beginning at about 3:30 p.m., before turning the gun on himself. They released no information about the shooter’s identity or that of the victims, saying only that if you haven’t yet heard from authorities, your loved ones probably are OK.
The shooting forced shoppers to make a horrific choice: hide or run?
“Trying to evacuate,” tweeted @HolliLinnB during the rampage. “Oh my god this is terrifying.”
“I’m stuck in the back room of build a bear,” added @RyFrisco.
Witnesses told various media outlets that they saw a man wielding a semi-automatic rifle, wearing a white mask, possibly a hockey mask, “He looked straight at me, and he aimed but he missed,” 16-year-old Alina Pazlenko told The Oregonian after the shooting. She was working at a cupcake stand near the food court, she told the newspaper, when she started hearing gunshots, at around 3:30 p.m. She watched the shooter walk near Macy’s and shoot a woman, before turning the gun on her. Pazlenko froze, she told the newspaper. “I thought he was going to come into the food court, but he kept going straight, toward JCPenney.”
Baggs said she had barely noticed the man when she and her daughter walked out of the mall. She was watching the Salvation Army bell ringer, who held the door open for mother and daughter as he peered nervously down the mall corridor.
“Mom, let’s get to the car,” Hannah said. “I think that guy had a gun.”
Baggs thought maybe it was a robbery, but then security officers started telling everyone in the parking lot to get in their cars. At that point, no one knew how many shooters there might be.
“Hannah was worried there might be more people in the parking lot,” Baggs told The Daily Beast, “that if she caused a commotion, they might target us.”
It wasn’t until they were on their way home that Baggs found out what actually happened.
Carlisa Anderson was working at the Teavana store in the mall, sandwiched between Macy’s and Forever 21, when she heard a loud bang.
“I thought maybe someone dropped something,” Anderson, 26, told The Daily Beast.
Then came a dozen more bangs. She dropped to the floor, behind the tea counter— “It’s where you would duck if you were getting shot at”—and stayed put, even when a co-worker screamed out, “Oh my god, I see him,” she said. “I was not about to get up and look.”
Anderson thought about her boyfriend, she said. “How much I f--king love him, how much I wish he was there. He’s played a lot of Call of Duty and has a lot of knowledge about guns and what to do in a tight spot.”
She also thought, “No. 1 was, like, don’t move. So unpredictable. If he just decides to take a right-hand turn, this might be my last day.”
After the first few moments, Anderson gathered up the store’s customers and into the storage room. A co-worker locked the door, and a few more tense minutes passed before the “all-clear” came. She left through an emergency exit, she said. By the time she reached the parking lot, “people were just mobbing out of the mall.”
Sheriff’s officials released few details at the most recent briefing. They still had teams “methodically” clearing the mall, said Lt. James Rhodes, and as of 6:30 p.m., were nearly finished. The only information released about the shooter is that he was an adult male, said sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Adam Phillips. Was he wearing a mask? a reporter asked.
“I don’t have that information for you.”