The 19-year-old gunman who fatally shot eight people at a busy mall in Omaha, Neb., on Wednesday before killing himself picked his victims at random, authorities said.
This story first appeared in the December 7, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The 1.2 million-square-foot Westroads Mall on the city’s west side, which is managed by General Growth Properties, remained closed Thursday because of the crime scene investigation. The 135-store mall was to reopen today.
There is no industry standard or typical security footprint for shopping malls, said Jon Lusher, principle consultant, IPC International in Chicago, which provides security services to 400 U.S. malls. Personnel and equipment are determined by multiple factors, including crime statistics and demographic profiles.
“These incidents, while tragic, have little or no effect on people’s shopping habits,” Lusher said. “People recognize them as isolated incidents.”
Security training has become more rigorous since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Lusher said. Although malls have stepped up surveillance, the use of metal detectors is unlikely.
“Practical considerations, and more than that, disruption of freedom of access, would probably prevent that,” he said.
During the holiday season, major mall operators sought to reassure the public that keeping shoppers, tenants and employees safe was their most important goal.
Chicago-based General Growth said in a statement, “Our number-one priority has been to ensure the safety and well-being of the shoppers and employees.”
Simon Property Group echoed the focus on safety.
“This can happen anywhere at anytime — at a university in Virginia, a high school in Colorado, a post office, an office building and at factories across town,” said a spokesman for the Indianapolis-based company. “And because the venue for these horrific acts is so random, it is impossible to conclude anything else but that the combination of mentally ill people seeking attention serves as a catalyst for these events, not the place where they are ultimately carried out.”
Security at Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., is routinely increased this time of year, said a spokeswoman.
The Omaha gunman, Robert A. Hawkins, who recently lost his job at McDonald’s and broke up with his girlfriend, took an elevator to the third floor of the Von Maur department store, where he immediately began firing, Police Chief Thomas Warren said during a televised news conference. Hawkins also wounded five people with an AK-47 automatic rifle that belonged to his stepfather.
— With contributions from Katherine Bowers and Rusty Williamson