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Indiana mall shooter used AR-style rifle targeted by proposed assault weapons ban

Officials identified the suspect in the Greenwood Park Mall shooting as Jonathan Douglas Sapirman, 20, and the man who fatally shot him as Elisjsha Dicken, 22.
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The suspected gunman in the Indiana mall mass shooting carried two AR-style rifles, a pistol, and more than 100 rounds of ammo, authorities said Monday, and the good Samaritan who fatally shot him is credited with saving “countless lives.”

Three people were killed at the Greenwood Park Mall outside of Indianapolis on Sunday. Two others were injured, and the gunman is also dead.

The suspected shooter was identified by officials as Jonathan Douglas Sapirman, 20, of Greenwood. Sapirman entered the Greenwood Park Mall and went into a restroom near the food court at 4:54 p.m. on Sunday, Greenwood Police Chief Jim Ison said Monday.

Sapirman stayed in the bathroom for 62 minutes, then exited and began firing near and into the mall's food court with a SIG Sauer M400, a semiautomatic rifle of a class of guns sometimes called assault weapons, authorities said.

The victims were identified as husband and wife Pedro Pineda, 56, and Rosa Mirian Rivera de Pineda, 37, both of Indianapolis; and Victor Gomez, 30, of Indianapolis.

Elisjsha Dicken, 22, of Seymour, Indiana, was at the mall shopping with his girlfriend, saw the shooter, and within minutes of Sapirman first opening fire, returned fire with a handgun and killed Sapirman, Ison said.

"His actions were nothing short of heroic," Ison said. "He engaged the gunman from quite a distance with a handgun, was very proficient in that, very tactically sound. And as he moved to close in on the suspect, he was also motioning for people to exit behind him."

Investigators have no indication that Dicken has any military or law enforcement background, Ison said.

Monday evening, Dickens’ attorney asked for privacy for Dickens and his family.

“Because we want to respect the on-going criminal investigation by the Greenwood Police Department and take time to honor the three innocent lives lost, we won’t be making any substantive comments on Sunday’s events until after the authorities’ investigation is closed,” said the attorney, Guy Relford.

Sapirman, though heavily armed, used only his SIG Sauer rifle when he opened fire, authorities said. The Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research group based in Washington, D.C., characterized the attack as yet another mass shooting — four or more victims shot — undertaken with what it characterized as an "assault weapon."

The term has been contentious because supporters of gun owners' rights say it implies battlefield capability when the rifle was made for "sporting" uses and doesn't shoot rapid-fire, as the battlefield versions do. Both Armalite, the company that first made the AR-15, and the family of its late creator, Eugene Stoner, have said the weapon was developed and intended for warfare.

Almost all SIG Sauer's M400 line of semiautomatic rifles are said to be "AR platform" guns, meaning they're military style semiautomatic rifles, or what many call assault weapons.

Armament Research Services, a consultancy that provides data on global military hardware, reported in 2016 that a version of the M400 has been "regularly used by" Iraqi Special Operations Forces.

In the wake of recent mass shootings in which the AR-15 or its clones were used, including the attack at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May that killed 19 children and two teachers, President Joe Biden has called on Congress to reprise the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004.

The gun safety organization Brady said Monday that the current Democratic Party-led effort to ban semiautomatic rifles modeled mostly on the AR-15, which will face a crucial House committee hearing Wednesday, would most likely prohibit the long gun used Sunday.

It's unlikely, however, that Democrats have enough support in the Senate to get the bill, introduced by Rep. David N. Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, to Biden's desk.

On Monday, Brady President Kris Brown said in a statement, "This shooting underscores the danger that the nation’s unaddressed gun violence crisis poses to all Americans as we attempt to go about our daily lives."

Mark Oliva, spokesperson for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry trade group, decried Sunday's shooting, but argued that focusing on AR-style weapons would not save lives.

"The firearm industry takes these attempts to ban entire classes of firearms seriously," he said by email. "We lose focus on solving the problems of criminal behavior when we focus on the tool and not the motive of the criminal."

Authorities have not pieced together a motive, and Sapirman had no criminal record as an adult. He had only minor interactions with law enforcement as a juvenile for a fight at school and running away from home, Ison said.

“There were no indicators he was violent or unstable,” he said Sapirman’s parents told investigators.

Sapirman had “on his person” multiple magazines and more than 100 rounds of ammunition along with a Glock semiautomatic handgun, Ison said.

Altogether, investigators recovered 24 rifle rounds fired by Sapirman and 10 rounds shot by Dicken, Ison said.

Investigators have learned that Sapirman had frequented a gun store and range over the past two years where he bought ammunition and honed his shooting skills, Ison said.

A second rifle was found by investigators in a bathroom, Ison said. Police said the gun is a Smith & Wesson M&P 15, described by its users as an AR-platform rifle, or AR clone.

The suspect's cellphone was discovered in a toilet in a bathroom stall, he said.

Sapirman lived on his own, Ison said, and investigators were checking on reports he was facing eviction. Sapirman had resigned from a warehouse job in May, Ison said.

In addition to those killed, a 22-year-old woman suffered a "leg wound" and is recovering, Ison said, and a 12-year-old girl suffered a minor injury when a bullet ricocheted and hit her.

Greenwood Mayor Mark W. Myers said Monday, "I grieve for these senseless killings. And I ache for the scars that are left behind on the victims and on our community."

Myers also said of Dicken, "This young man, Greenwood's good Samaritan, acted within seconds, stopping the shooter and saving countless lives."

Ty Straub, 35, of Indianapolis, was at the mall Sunday, about 300 feet away from the food court, when he started to hear screaming and saw a stampede of people running over each other.

“I saw people pushing past each other and running as fast as they could. So as soon as I saw that, I didn’t waste any time. I took off running,” he told NBC News. 

In the chaos he heard someone say, “shooter, shooter,” but didn’t hear any shots himself.

“I basically ran like the wind. I told everybody around me with the little bit of breath that I had, ‘They said there’s a shooter, there’s a shooter. Go, go go,’” he recalled. 

Straub said, “I’ve never been that scared in my life.”

He successfully got back to his car and police and ambulances arrived minutes later.

“Something you never think you would actually witness, seems like it’s crazy, as the times are getting that we should all kind of have our head on a swivel and be ready for whatever,” Straub said.

The motive and circumstances of the shooting are under investigation, Ison said.

Officers, including members of the Indianapolis department’s SWAT team, went through the mall Sunday night to ensure no one injured was hiding or otherwise in need of help, an officer with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said.

A backpack that police believe was left by the gunman in a bathroom turned out not to be a threat, he said.

Greenwood Park Mall condemned the shooting Monday saying, “Violence has no place in this or any other community.”

“We grieve for the victims of yesterday’s horrific tragedy in Greenwood,” the statement said. “We are grateful for the strong response of the first responders, including the heroic actions of the Good Samaritan who stopped the suspect.”

The mall was closed on Monday.

Mike Pence, who was Indiana’s governor from 2013 to 2017 and vice president under Donald Trump, said Monday morning, “Our prayers are with the fallen and injured.” He praised the citizen who stopped the shooter as a “Hoosier Hero.”

Three hours after the Greenwood Park Mall shooting, another person was killed and three were wounded when gunfire erupted at Don Challis Park, just 7 miles south in another Indianapolis suburb, Beech Grove.

“Our Beech Grove EMS, which I think is the best, believe it or not, was not available for this incident because our ambulances were down helping people at the Greenwood Mall,” Mayor Dennis Buckley told reporters on Monday. “We don’t pick and choose, we help.”

Beech Grove authorities thanked first responders from other neighboring communities for filling in the gap on Sunday night.