OMAHA, Neb. — Visitations, wakes and vigils were set to begin Sunday for several victims of the deadliest mall shooting on record in the United States.
However, some people grieved Saturday at the Westroads Mall, where three days earlier eight people were fatally shot by a suicidal teenager.
“I come out here almost every morning, and (today) it was kind of just an eerie feeling of, I don’t know, quiet,” said Marge Andrews, 49, who regularly walks the mall with a friend. She and her husband John, 51, came Saturday to buy Christmas presents — sporting goods for their sons, volleyball clothes for their daughter.
“It doesn’t feel like a Christmas feeling,” John Andrews said.
The Von Maur department store, where 19-year-old Robert Hawkins opened fire with an AK-47 before taking his own life, remained closed.
A makeshift memorial had been assembled at its inside entrance. Wreaths were mounted on tripods just outside the doors and a note from management said the store will reopen soon. No date was given.
Police acknowledged there was extra security in the area but said they couldn’t discuss specifics. Mall security guards were unarmed.
Hawkins’ family released a statement to The Associated Press through the Rev. Mark Miller of Faith Presbyterian Church in La Vista in which they said they hope the community can heal. Services had not yet been arranged for Hawkins.
Funerals for several victims were scheduled for Monday.
Separate visitations for Von Maur department store employees Janet Jorgensen, 67, Gary Joy, 56, and Dianne Trent, 53, were scheduled for Sunday in Omaha, while another was planned that day for John McDonald, 65, in his hometown of Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Additional information about the shooter continues to surface.
‘Nothing more that we could offer’ shooter
Prosecutors say Hawkins had been allowed to walk away from state-mandated care in the summer of 2006 — four years of treatment and counseling, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars — but not because he was prepared to face society on his own.
“There was really nothing more that we could offer him that he was willing to participate in,” said Sandra Markley, Sarpy County’s lead juvenile prosecutor.
Hawkins became a ward of the state through Sarpy County Juvenile Court in 2002, after a stay in a Missouri treatment facility for threatening to kill his stepmother.
The juvenile court system could have maintained oversight of Hawkins for nine more months because he hadn’t yet turned 19 — that occurred last May. However prosecutors, defense lawyers and Hawkins’ state-appointed guardians decided to end further supervision.
During his years as a state ward, Hawkins was diagnosed with depression, attention deficit disorder, impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and a disorder characterized by negativity and hostility toward authority figures.
Prosecutors say his criminal record while under court supervision wasn’t remarkable. He was convicted of third-degree assault and for offering to sell drugs at school.
“Unfortunately, we had no evidence that he presented a threat,” Markley said.
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