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Bemidji woman shopping with mother in Oregon mall at time of shooting

PORTLAND, Ore. – Donna Arel and her mother were shopping in a mall near here Tuesday when a woman ran past them, saying there was a shooting inside the Clackamas Town Center.

“We thought it was a joke, we didn’t know,” said Arel, who lives in Bemidji’s Nymore neighborhood.

Within minutes, an announcement came over the intercom, confirming that an incident prompted a lockdown of the store and nobody was to leave. Everyone was asked to gather in the center of Sears, away from the doors, and there they remained for about an hour.

“They told us to hit the floor,” Arel said. “You do what you’re told.”

The shooting at Clackamas Town Center left three people dead, including the 22-year-old shooter, Jacob Tyler Roberts, who shot himself, according to the Associated Press. Roberts, wearing a hockey-style mask, opened fire with a stolen AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

Arel has visited her mother, Carol Blair, each year around Christmastime ever since Carol moved to Oregon in 1989. The first thing they always do is go to Clackamas Town Center, a large, two-story shopping mall with 185 stores and a 20-screen movie theater.

“We always start at (JC)Penneys,” Arel said. “We always make a loop and come back to Penneys.”

Arel arrived in Oregon at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday and she, her mom, and her mom’s husband, Bob, arrived at the Clackamas Town Center by 1:30 p.m.

The shooting occurred less than two hours later.

Arel and her mother were shopping inside Sears, opposite the mall from where the shooting occurred. Bob Blair was on the first floor in the mall, outside Sears, as the women shopped for kitchen curtains.

As Sears went into lockdown, the women called Bob Blair to find out if he was OK. He was, though they learned he had heard the shots.

Arel estimates 50-75 people were gathered together in the center of Sears as they awaited the all-clear from officials.

“It was amazing,” she said. “People were very calm. They were very helpful. It happened so fast. People were there within minutes.”

In time, a law-enforcement officer told them the shooter had been apprehended; they did not immediately know he had apparently killed himself. The officer wanted everyone to leave as police were not immediately sure there wasn’t more than one suspect.

Arel, who flies home next week, said the whole experience still feels surreal.

“Your mind starts playing all these what-ifs,” she said. “We certainly could have out there, in the mall, making the rounds.”