By Henry C. Jackson
The Associated Press
OMAHA, Neb. — Three quick gunshots, then nothing. Then a gasp, and again, nothing. Then more gunfire, and a 911 operator's questions going unanswered.
The Omaha Police Department released tapes Thursday of 911 calls made around the time teenage gunman Robert A. Hawkins' bullets tore through a crowded shopping mall. He would kill eight people and himself inside the Von Maur department store before it was over.
One caller who hasn't been identified wouldn't — or couldn't — answer an operator's questions as the sound of gunfire echoed in the background.
The recording begins with three distinct "pops."
The next sound is a gasp.
"911. What's your emergency?" the operator asks.
The operator gets no response - just 47 seconds of the staccato patter of gunfire, broken by pauses, before the line goes dead.
Some of the 911 calls came from loved ones who merely heard about the shooting. But others came from those inside the mall, like a woman who took cover as she told of hearing dozens of shots.
Operator: "What's your emergency?"
Woman: "I'm at Von Maur and I think there's shots being fired all over the place."
Operator: "Yeah. We're on our way out there. Anybody been hit?"
Woman: "I haven't seen anything. I am hiding in a clothes rack."
Operator: "OK. We're on our way out there, ma'am."
Woman: "I mean, there's been like, 50 gunshots."
An operator asks another woman calling from the mall if she had seen if anyone was shot. The woman says she hasn't, then another woman nearby can be heard screaming frantically.
"Oh my God! Everybody's shot up in there! Oh my God, help us!" she says.
Jodi Longmeyer, who works in the human resources department of Von Maur, told an operator she saw the shooter open fire.
Longmeyer: "He came up the elevator and opened fire in the elevator area."
Operator: "Walked off the elevator and started firing?"
Longmeyer: "He started firing in the air."
Longmeyer described Hawkins' gun, which police believe was an AK-47 assault rifle he stole from his stepfather.
Longmeyer: "It was large. It was a very, very large gun."
Operator: "Was it like a pistol type gun?"
Longmeyer: "It was big. It had, God. It looked like it wasn't a rifle. It looked like an automatic type of gun."
Eventually, Longmeyer makes her way to a security camera.
She gasps. "Oh my gosh. Wait a minute ... It looks like the gun is lying over by customer service. There's an officer there now. I wonder if he ... there by customer service. ... It looks like he might have killed himself."
Longmeyer starts to cry, and the operators ask if she sees the gunman.
Longmeyer: "I see him lying by the gun. Correct."
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By that time, police had made their way to the body.