Omaha police fatally shoot armed man in Target store
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A man with an AR-15-style rifle and “lots of ammo” opened fire at a Target store in Omaha, sending panicked shoppers and employees to safety before being arrested by police Tuesday afternoon was fatally shot, authorities said.
Police said the white man, in his 30s, fired multiple shots upon entering the store, but it was not immediately known if he shot anyone. No other injuries were reported. Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said officers searched the store several times looking for victims “because some people were hiding there.”
Target employee Lauren Murphy had just started her break and was in the store’s front restroom when she heard the gunshots. She got a text saying to either stay or run — so she hid in a bathroom stall, got her feet off the floor, and started texting her family and friends to say she loved her loved. A child was crying next to her.
“I was afraid that I would die at work like that,” said Murphy, 21.
“I was just clinging to the side of the toilet to get my feet off the floor to make sure I wasn’t visible,” she added.
Another 21-year-old employee, Samuel Jacobsen, was filling out a personal grocery order when he heard the first shot. But he wasn’t sure what the noise was and kept working.
“Then my colleague ran over and said, ‘He’s got a gun, get out!'” Jacobsen said. “I was like, ‘Oh, this is real. I gotta get out, gotta get out, gotta get out.’”
Hiding behind the store, he wrote to colleagues to make sure they were okay.
Cathy Mahannah, a customer, said the scene inside was “sheer panic”.
The 62-year-old grandmother was near the entrance to the store, picking out Valentine’s Day gifts for her family, when she heard a loud bang. She thought something had fallen, then she saw a crowd of people running towards the exit.
A buyer told her there was an active shooter, and she ran away. She heard at least one more shot inside the store and a few more while she was outside.
Mahannah was so confused that she was initially unable to find her car and jumped into a vehicle with a stranger.
“The moments in that parking lot were terrifying when I heard the shots and thought, ‘Where am I hiding? I don’t know what to do,” she said.
Schmaderer said several emergency calls were received just before noon and officers were on the job within minutes.
“The first officers to arrive went into the building, confronted the suspect and shot him,” Schmaderer said. “He had an AR-15 rifle and lots of ammo.”
Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives happened to be nearby and were helping to get the victims to safety, Bureau spokesman John Ham said.
The ATF is tracking the gun to determine where it came from, whether it was obtained legally and whether it was used in other crimes, Ham said.
Target spokesman Brian Harper-Tibaldo said in a statement that all shoppers and employees have been safely evacuated from the store, which will remain closed indefinitely.
Lt. Neal Bonacci, a police spokesman, said officers are trained to enter such scenes quickly to prevent mass casualties.
“We have learned a lot from other jurisdictions, other areas and other cities that have unfortunately experienced this,” he said. “We’ll get in immediately. That’s what we’re trained for. Whether it’s 1 officer or 10, we go in and neutralize the threat.”
Several other shootings have taken place in stores across the country in recent months, at a time when mass shootings have drawn worryingly frequent public attention.
In January, a woman was injured in a shooting at a Walmart store in Evansville, Indiana. Police said things could have been much worse were it not for the heroic actions of an employee and the police. Officers arrived within minutes and fatally shot the gunman. A Walmart executive in Chesapeake, Virginia, killed six people in November when he started wild shooting in a break room. Six others were injured. The gunman shot and killed himself before officers arrived.
In Buffalo, New York, an 18-year-old man fatally shot 10 people and injured three others last May after visiting a grocery store in a mostly black neighborhood. Authorities immediately called it a hate crime.
The Omaha shooting occurred just over 15 years after the deadly December 2007 shooting at a Von Maur department store, when a 19-year-old gunman killed eight people and himself.
Nebraska allows gun owners to carry firearms — including assault rifles — in public as long as they don’t have a criminal record preventing them from owning one and are not in a location where guns are prohibited. To legally hide a gun, Nebraskans must pass a state patrol background check, be fingerprinted, and complete a gun safety course.
Republican Senator Tom Brewer of Gordon is sponsoring a bill that would allow people to carry concealed handguns without a license. The measure would also prohibit cities and counties from enacting local laws with stricter controls than state laws. The proposal has 25 co-sponsors.
Jacobsen, the store clerk, said he wanted stricter, not looser, gun laws.
“As someone who grew up here, I always hear that this part of Omaha and western Omaha is so safe,” he said. But Tuesday’s shooting “really drives it home that it could happen anywhere.”
Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Missouri, and Jim Salter in O’Fallon, Missouri contributed to this report.
Josh Funk, The Associated Press