PORTLAND -- The Oregon mall where a gunman shot and killed two people, then killed himself, will reopen Friday. Meanwhile, the woman who had raised the 22-year-old shooter spoke publicly for the first time.
Jacob Tyler Roberts, the gunman in the Clackamas Town Center attack Tuesday, had recently said goodbye to his friends after quitting his job abruptly, friends told KGW.
Roberts had been acting erratic lately, friends said. They were surprised when he suddenly quit his job at Big Bertha sandwich shop after saying he was planning to buy the business. Then, even more recently, they said Roberts told them he was moving to Hawaii and had emotional goodbyes with friends and family.
"I feel terrible for the victims but I just know that's not in his character. Something must have gone wrong," said friend Amanda Trammel.
Roberts went on his shooting rampage the day after his mother's birthday, as first reported by Oregonlive. His mother died back in 1993, of Hodgkin's disease at the age of 22, the Oregonlive article said. Oregonlive also learned that Roberts' mother had worked in retail. Investigators have not commented on whether they suspect that this may have been related Roberts' motive in the shooting.
"Never could I have imagined him being a part of something like this," said Tami Roberts, the shooter's aunt.
Roberts was 2 when his mother died. Tami Roberts told KGW she raised him and he was a normal boy. She said he had dreamed of becoming a Marine, but when he was 17 years old he broke his foot, which prevented him from joining. She says he changed after that.
"And then it was just like, he lost purpose, he lost like...that was what he was going to do when he grew up. He was going to be a Marine," said Roberts.
Tami Roberts said she lost contact with her son four years ago. On Wednesday, she apologized in a hand-written note for Jacob's behavior, writing that she had "no understanding or explanation for her son's behavior" and adding she was "very sad and wants everyone to know that she is so sorry what Jake did, it's so out of his character."
As the Clackamas Town Center prepares to reopen Friday, mall employees say it will be tough to go back.
"Every day, to be honest, it is coming a little bit, like hitting me in waves - people died two days ago while I was eating a sandwich," said mall employee Josh Eramman.
"I was kind of nervous to go back in there, 'cause I didn't know what to expect," said mall employee Jamie Young.
Police said Roberts entered the mall wearing a load-bearing vest and a hockey-style mask, armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon. Police are not sure how many shots Roberts fired but said they believe he was carrying several fully-loaded magazines.
Neighbors where Roberts most recently lived were surprised by the news.
Roberts lived in the basement of a small home near Southeast 84th and Flavell, according to neighbors, who say he had two roommates. People KGW spoke with said he seemed like a nice young man, and they were stunned to learn he was accused in the deadly mall shooting spree.
The man and woman who were inside the home Wednesday declined to comment about their former roommate, but neighbors said Roberts had moved into the home in recent months.
Bobby Bates, a neighbor, didn’t know Roberts well but says his actions Tuesday caught her eye: ”He tore out of the house and threw the guitar case in the back of his car…and tore off.”
Roberts attended Milwaukie High School, but graduated from Oregon City in 2008. District officials said he was an “average” student who did not participate in extracurricular activities, and had no record of discipline. Roberts has no criminal record, either.
The following year, Roberts completed a year of classes at Clackamas Community College, taking “general studies” courses, but withdrew the next year.
Customers at the Big Bertha sandwich shop on Southeast 48th and Hawthorne in Portland, where Roberts most recently worked, described him as a “nice guy.”
Shooting Spree Kills Two
Multiple calls came in to police at 3:29 p.m. Tuesday of an active shooter at the mall. Police said the shooter parked his 1996 VW Jetta near the entrance to the Macy's store, and entered the mall moving rapidly toward the food cart area. He shot two victims who died from their wounds.
Police say Roberts (shown at left in a photo taken by a friend Friday) stole the AR-15 rifle from someone known to him. Witnessed said It appeared that the suspect's rifle jammed while he was attacking victims in the food court area but he was able to get the weapon working again.
Police said they believe the shooter worked alone and there was no indication of any motive for the shooting.
Roberts died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.