A man wielding an AR-15 rifle and 13 loaded magazines of ammunition walked into a west Omaha Target store Tuesday and began shooting.
Shoppers rushed out emergency exits. Some employees went to hide inside fitting rooms. Many messaged family members, saying they loved them. Others called 911.
A group of Omaha police officers who were the first to respond went inside and confronted the gunman.
One officer fired at the gunman, killing him.
No one else was injured.
The police shooting was the second within 14 hours in Omaha this week. The first incident occurred late Monday night, when two Omaha police officers exchanged gunfire with an alleged burglar at Dino’s Storage in the Aksarben area, killing a 38-year-old man. Both officers were shot in their legs and will survive.
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Midday Tuesday, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies swarmed the Target superstore and quickly searched the store for any victims, finding none.
In brief comments after the scene was secure, Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer thanked his officers and other agencies for their swift actions.
“This is what you want,” he said. “When you have an active shooter in your city, you want a massive response like this.”
Several 911 calls alerted police at 11:59 a.m., saying there was a gunman who was shooting at the superstore, located at 17810 West Center Road. One caller had heard at least six shots.
Meg Mandy, 36, was in the grocery section picking out apple juice when she heard thunderous noise. She saw a wooden pallet on the ground and thought something had fallen over. Then she heard the noise again.
A Target employee ran by Mandy, and told her, “Active shooter, active shooter, hide, run.”
Others ran toward the back of the store. Mandy assisted a mother who had a baby strapped to her chest in a carrier and two more toddlers. The shoppers left through an emergency exit. A construction worker led them into a metal shipping container in order to provide warmth and protection. Douglas County 911 received 29 calls about the gunman and gunfire.
Mandy said she couldn’t believe that a shooting occurred at her local grocery store.
“It’s just really surreal,” she said. “I’m just thankful that no one else was hurt. It seems crazy to me that no one else was hurt.”
Schmaderer said the gunman, who was White, in his 30s and had “plenty of ammunition” had fired shots, but it was unclear whether he was firing at anybody. His name was not being released Tuesday night pending next of kin notification.
Police haven’t said how many shots the gunman fired, though bullet casings were found inside the store. A statement from OPD said officers gave the gunman “numerous verbal commands” to drop the rifle before one officer fired their service weapon, killing the gunman.
Elianne Robinson, an 18-year-old Target employee, said she heard a voice say, “Get on the ground!” And then she heard at least one more shot. Later she said she thought that was the moment that police killed the gunman.
Authorities did a thorough search of the store at least three times and deemed the situation secure within an hour of the 911 calls.
Another shopper, who declined to give her name, was in the toy department when she heard gunshots.
“I heard three shots,” she said. “Everyone was in a panic. We all ran out of the store.”
She said she and about a dozen people — employees and other customers — ran out the back door.
A number of Target employees went to the nearby Sleep Number store to seek refuge after the shooting.
One Target employee told a World-Herald reporter that he heard multiple shots.
Mike Gergen, general manager of the Voodoo Taco, said an employee got a text from his sister indicating there was an active shooter at Target.
“Not five seconds after that, a young woman pulled up and ran in here,” he said. “She was scared to death, upset and shook up.”
The woman, in her mid-20s, had been in the store to do some banking when she heard the shots. She ran out and fled in her car.
Joe Garry, operations manager, said they immediately locked the door and then attempted to comfort her. She seemed more assured once the door was locked.
“I was just trying to calm her down,” Garry said.
After all the shootings around the country, Gergen said, it was sobering to learn of one next door.
“It’s getting pretty real when it’s right by you,” he said.
OPD said any witnesses should call 402-444-4877 to talk to detectives. Investigators planned to be at Target well into Tuesday night and said once they’re finished, shoppers and employees can retrieve their personal items and vehicles.
Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert said the officers’ actions saved lives and prevented mass casualties.
“Omaha police officers are highly trained to respond to and assess life-threatening situations,” she said. “Their bravery and high level of skill should be commended.”
At 1 p.m., Kaley Schlueter was among several people waiting to pick up loved ones outside the store when police let them out.
Schlueter was calm at the moment, after what had been a terrifying 35 minutes when her sister, Elianne Robinson, was inside the store as a gunman was firing off rounds.
Robinson had texted Schlueter at 12:03 p.m.
“She said, ‘I love you. There’s a shooting in my Target. I’m in the fitting room. He shot so much, I don’t know if he’s killed anyone,’” Schlueter said.
Schlueter and other relatives began racing to the store. Her sister sent a video message via Snapchat at 12:13 p.m.
“She just was saying, ‘I love you, I’m sorry,’ ” Schlueter said.
Robinson used the video to show where she was. Schlueter could hear gunshots in the background of the video. She feared “the worst thing possible” was happening, that her sister wanted her family to know she loved them if she did not survive.
But Robinson kept messaging. And then, after what seemed like forever, she let her sister know at 12:38 p.m. that she was OK.
“I’m with the cops,” she messaged. “They got it.”
Waiting for her to come out, Schlueter said she was out of tears, relieved and happy that her sister and others had survived.
If only the shooter was killed, that was as it should be, she said.
“But it’s wild that it happened at all,” Schlueter said.
Kaitlyn Vu, who had been on her way to pick up medicine at Target when she heard about the shooting, talked with a mom of an employee outside the store, then sat in a parking lot nearby and tried to process what was happening.
Vu said there should be more mental health check requirements for gun ownership.
“It’s just tragic that this keeps happening,” said Vu, a Second Amendment supporter who plans to get a concealed carry permit. “You see the two mass shootings in California, and we’re still not over what happened to those children in Texas ... But there’s going to be no legislative process; there’s just going to be a lot of thoughts and prayers sent out on social media and then we’ll wait for the next mass shooting.”
World-Herald staff writers Henry J. Cordes, Jessica Wade, Anna Reed and Chris Machian contributed to this report.
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