NPR logo Omaha Gunman Had Lost Job, Girlfriend


Omaha Gunman Had Lost Job, Girlfriend

A 19-year-old male who had recently lost his job and his girlfriend opened fire on Christmas shoppers at an Omaha, Neb., mall — killing eight people and wounding five others before turning an assault rifle on himself.

Wearing a camouflage vest and a black backpack, Robert A. Hawkins began firing as shoppers and employees at the Westroads Mall scrambled for cover in dressing rooms, clothing racks, offices and storage areas.

Hawkins had recently split with his girlfriend and had been fired from a job at McDonald's. He had a criminal record and had been kicked out of his parents' house.

Eight people were killed and five wounded before the shooter ended the horror by taking his own life. He left behind a note that read, in part, "Now I'll be famous."

Police Chief Thomas Warren said the shooting appeared to be random and that the dead included five females and four males, including the gunman. Warren promised more details in a news conference scheduled for Thursday morning.

Hawkins was kicked out by his family about a year ago. He moved in with a friend's family, and Debora Maruca-Kovac and her husband welcomed him into their home and tried to help him.

"When he first came in the house, he was introverted, a troubled young man who was like a lost pound puppy that nobody wanted," Maruca-Kovac told The Associated Press.

She told the Omaha World-Herald that the night before the shooting, Hawkins and her sons showed her an SKS semiautomatic Russian military rifle — the same type used in the shooting. She said she thought the gun belonged to a member of Hawkins' family.

She said she didn't think much of it — the gun looked too old to work.

Records in Sarpy and Washington counties showed that Hawkins had a felony drug conviction and several misdemeanor cases filed against him, including an arrest 11 days before the shooting for having alcohol as a minor. He was due in court in two weeks.

Maruca-Kovac said Hawkins was fired from his job at a McDonald's restaurant this week and had recently broken up with a girlfriend. She said he phoned her at about 1 p.m. Wednesday, telling her he had left a note. She tried to get him to explain.

"He said, 'It's too late,' " and hung up, she told CNN. She then called Hawkins' mother.

In the note, which was turned over to authorities, Hawkins wrote that he was "sorry for everything" and would not be a burden on his family anymore. More ominously, he wrote, "Now I'll be famous."

From NPR reports and The Associated Press