Officials have identified the man who opened fire in an Oregon mall on Tuesday, killing two people and wounding another before turning the gun on himself, as Jacob Tyler Roberts. The 22-year-old had faced some setbacks recently, but as is often the case, friends and family members were shocked by news of the crime and say he never showed any violent tendencies. In the past year Roberts lost his license after getting several speeding tickets, broke up with his girlfriend, and was evicted from his apartment. Friends say he recently quit his job at a Portland gyro shop, sold many of possessions, and announced he was moving to Hawaii, but they thought he was just looking for a life change. “His main goal was to make you laugh, smile, make you feel comfortable,” said his ex-girlfriend, Hannah Patricia Sansburn. “You can’t reconcile the differences. I hate him for what he did, but I can’t hate the person I knew because it was nothing like the person who would go into a mall and go on a rampage.”
Roberts told friend that he missed his flight to Hawaii last weekend, and his roommate, Jaime Eheler, noticed that he seemed off when he left their apartment hours before the shooting. “There was a strange look in his eyes, like a stone-cold look. It was not him,” says Eheler. “He said that he would talk to me about it when he got back … He had a plastic bag in his hand and walked out the door.”
Police say Roberts stole a AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and fired up to 60 rounds in the mall. At one point his gun jammed, but he got it working again. Officers were on the scene in minutes, and they found Roberts in a back area of the mall, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. About 10,000 people were in the Clackamas Town Center at the time of the shooting. “This could have been much, much worse,” said Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts (who isn’t related to the gunman).
Authorities say Roberts had no specific targets and they haven’t determined a motive for the shooting. The two victims were Steve Forsyth, a 45-year-old father and youth sports coach who owned a business in the mall, and Cindy Ann Yuille, a 54-year-old hospice nurse who was shopping. Fifteen-year-old Kristina Shevchenko was shot in the back, but luckily the bullet missed her ribs and vital organs. Her family said she’s still in serious condition, but she’s “alert and talking.” They added that she wanted to thank her friend Alyona, “who immediately called 911 and remained by her side until the emergency service providers arrived.”
The shooter’s mother has refused requests for an interview, but released a handwritten statement on spiral notebook paper. “Tami Roberts wishes to express her shock and grief,” it said. “She has no understanding or explanation for her son’s behavior … She is very sad and wants everyone to know that she is so sorry [for] what Jake did. It’s so out of his character.”