PORTLAND, Ore. — Jacob Roberts planned big life changes before this week's shootings at a suburban mall that left two people dead and another seriously injured: He quit his job, got rid of many belongings and aimed to move to Hawaii.
"He was kind of leaving suddenly. I've seen that happen before, where stuff comes up in someone's life, where they kind of need a fresh, clean break. So we thought nothing of it. It was, 'Good luck on your new life. Enjoy Hawaii,' " said Holli Winchell, who socialized frequently with Roberts in the bars and restaurants of southeast Portland.
Something went wrong, though, and Roberts didn't make it onto a plane for Hawaii. The next thing his friends heard, he was dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound Tuesday after shouting, "I am the shooter" and opening fire with a semiautomatic assault rifle at the Clackamas Town Center mall, which was packed with Christmas shoppers.
Police have not been able to discern any warnings that Roberts was headed for violence. His Facebook page left what may be one of the only clues to his mindset: a picture of a graffiti-covered wall with the words, "Follow Your Dreams," marked out with another word in large red letters: "Cancelled." It had been uploaded Oct. 3.
Authorities think Roberts, 22, who proudly claimed to work at a "bada- -" sandwich shop and who friends described as funny and good natured most of the time, rushed into the mall carrying a stolen AR-15 rifle along with multiple magazines of ammunition and sprayed shoppers in the food court before his weapon momentarily jammed. He retreated down a service stairwell.
Retailers herded panicked shoppers to safety behind locked doors as more than 100 police officers swarmed toward the mall. Casualties were remarkably few, Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts said Wednesday, because of quick thinking by those present and multiple drills police had conducted in the past.
"Ten thousand people in the mall at one time kept a level head. They got themselves out of the mall, they helped others out, and there's just a number of heroes that took the time to help people get out. It was really a whole lot of people coming together to make a difference," said Sheriff Roberts, no relation to the gunman.