Updated: Wednesday, 12 Dec 2012, 11:44 AM EST
Published : Wednesday, 12 Dec 2012, 11:45 AM EST
PORTLAND, Oreg. (NBCNC) - Another tragedy this holiday season, this time near Portland, Oregon. A man dressed in camouflage clothing and wearing a ski mask came into a crowded mall and began firing an automatic weapon causing thousands to run for cover.
A rush of gunfire ripped through this crowded Portland mall Tuesday. "These things aren't supposed to happen and we train for them and we pray and hope that they never do happen, but tonight we did have an active shooter situation," said Clackamas County Oregon Sheriff Craig Roberts.
An early afternoon of holiday shopping, quickly shifted to chaos. "People started hiding behind counters and eventually everyone went to the middle of Sears and on top of the escalator," said one witness.
Others frantically struggled to get outside. "I heard several shots and saw a lot of people running so I just went to the doors and held them open because people were trampling each other trying to get out," said Cindy Lou Johnston, a mall employee
Trying to get away from a man witnesses describe as wearing camouflage, a white mask, and body armor, while he calmly sprayed bullets from a semi-automatic rifle. "I was sitting there by the door watching what was going on and then some guy ran by in a white mask and an assault rifle and I looked out 'cause I heard some shots and he was pointing the gun and we ran into the fitting room and grabbed the people and went out the back door," said another witness.
"There were little kids in my department, families, moms and we just told everybody to get inside the fitting rooms and we stood on top of the benches and waited," said a mall worker.
Shaken family members waited anxiously for news as police worked to secure the mall and search victims. "I just want to hug her I just want her out." Sheri Everest - Daughter Survived
When the gunfire ended, two victims were dead, and a third seriously wounded.
Police say the tragedy ended when the suspect turned his gun on himself. "The shooter is dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. No rounds fired by law enforcement." Said Lt. James Rhodes, Clackamas County Sheriff's Department.
Local, state, and federal officers who continue their investigation this morning -
Like so many in this shocked community - still searching for some kind of answer about how, and why it happened.