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By Oskar Garcia
The Associated Press
OMAHA, Neb. — A man with a rifle opened fire at a busy department store Wednesday, killing eight people before taking his own life, in an attack
that made holiday shoppers run screaming through a mall and barricade themselves in dressing rooms. Five more people were wounded, two critically.
Witnesses said the gunman fired down on shoppers from a third-floor balcony of the Von Maur store.
The gunman was found dead on the third floor with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and his victims were discovered on the second and third floors, police said.
"My knees rocked. I didn't know what to do, so I just ran with everybody else," said Kevin Kleine, 29, who was shopping with her 4-year-old daughter at the Westroads Mall, in a prosperous neighborhood on the city's west side. She said she hid in a dressing room with four other shoppers and an employee.
Keith Fidler, a Von Maur employee, said he heard a burst of five to six shots followed by 15 to 20 more rounds. Fidler said he huddled in the corner of the men's clothing department with about a dozen other employees until police yelled to get out of the store.
Sgt. Teresa Negron said the gunman killed eight people, then apparently killed himself. His name was not immediately released, and authorities gave no motive for the attack and did not know whether he said anything during the rampage.
A victim is wheeled out of the Westroads Mall after a gunman opened fire at a Von Maur store in the mall, in Omaha, Neb., Wednesday. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Police received a 911 call from someone inside the mall, and shots could be heard in the background, Negron said. By the time officers arrived six minutes later, the shooting was over, she said.
A witness, Shawn Vidlak, said he heard four or five rapid shots "like a nail gun." At first he thought it was noise from construction work going on at the mall.
"People started screaming about gunshots," Vidlak said. "I grabbed my wife and kids we got out of there as fast as we could."
Shortly after the shooting, which came three weeks before Christmas, a group of shoppers came out of the building with their hands raised. Some were still holding
Women evacuated from the Von Maur store after a gunman opened fire. .(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
The sprawling, three-level mall has more than 135 stores and restaurants, according to the Web site for General Growth Properties, the manager of the mall. It gets 14.5 million visitors every year, according to the Web site.
Fidler said he did not see the shooting but saw a person lying still by an elevator as he was leaving the store.
A woman who answered the phone at an Old Navy store said 20 to 30 customers were huddled with employees in a back storeroom.
"All we know was people were running and screaming down the hallway by Von Maur saying there was a shooting, and then they locked us down," said the woman, who said her name was Heidi.
Police were allowing some people to leave the mall, but no one was permitted to enter.
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President Bush was in town Wednesday for a fundraiser in Omaha, but left about an hour before the shooting.