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Police release first images of Omaha mall gunman; surveillance shots show teen raising gun

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    OMAHA, Neb. — In the first surveillance images released of a teenage gunman’s shopping mall rampage, the shaggy-haired assailant can be seen raising an assault rifle to fire in front of a department store mannequin.
    Police released three still images Friday, two days after 19-year-old Robert A. Hawkins killed eight people and himself at Westroads Mall’s Von Maur store.
    The images at first show Hawkins walking into the mall unarmed, wearing glasses, a black zippered sweat shirt over what appears to be a black Jack Daniel’s T-shirt. Six minutes later, he returns and strides through an entrance decked with holiday decorations, an apparent bulge under his clothing. In the last image, he is shown with his sleeves rolled up, aiming the AK-47 to fire.
    The images appear to contradict earlier reports that the gunman had a military-style haircut and entered the mall wearing a camouflage vest.
    Moments after Hawkins entered the mall, authorities would be flooded with 911 calls about the gunfire. One was from Jodi Longmeyer, a human resources manager at Von Maur, agonized with the operator while barricaded in an employee locker room at the store.
    She saw Hawkins step off the mall elevator on the third floor. He was dressed in dark clothes. She saw his gun, watched him open fire. Minutes later, shaking and scared, Longmeyer was able to get into a security room, where she described what she could see on live surveillance of the department store.
    ‘‘Oh my gosh,’’ she told the dispatcher. ‘‘It looks like the gun is lying over by customer service. It looks like he might have killed himself,’’ Longmeyer said, her voice rising as she started to sob.
    The shoppers killed were identified as Gary Scharf, 48, of Lincoln, and John McDonald, 65, of Council Bluffs, Iowa. The six employees killed were Angie Schuster, 36; Maggie Webb, 24; Janet Jorgensen, 66; Diane Trent, 53; Gary Joy, 56; and Beverly Flynn, 47, all of Omaha.
    Jorgensen’s family said Friday they gathered soon after the tragedy at the police command center to pray for the victims and their families, including Hawkins. But they still haven’t come to grips with what happened, family members said.
    ‘‘We’re waiting for her to walk in the door, late from work,’’ son-in-law Randy Shaefer said.
    State officials, aquaintances and police have described Hawkins as having a troubled past. He had broken up with a girlfriend recently and lost his job. Acquaintances said he was a drug user and that he had a history of depression.
    Hawkins spent four years in a series of treatment centers, group homes and foster care after threatening to kill his stepmother in 2002, state officials said.
    In August 2006, social workers, the courts and his father all agreed: It was time for Hawkins to be released — nine months before he turned 19 and would have been required to leave anyway.
    After reviewing surveillance tape, a suicide note and Hawkins’ last conversations with those close to him, police said they don’t know — and may never know — exactly why Hawkins went to the mall and opened fire.
    About an hour before the shootings, Hawkins called Debora Maruca-Kovac, a woman who with her husband took Hawkins into their home because he had no other place to live. He told her he had written a suicide note, Maruca-Kovac said. In the note, Hawkins wrote that he was ‘‘sorry for everything’’ and would not be a burden on his family anymore.
    Associated Press writers Nate Jenkins in Lincoln, Neb., and Oskar Garcia, Anna Jo Bratton and Henry C. Jackson in Omaha contributed to this report.

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