Members of a SWAT team wait outside the Clackamas Town Center after a shooting on December 11, 2012 in Clackamas, Oregon. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images)
A masked gunman opened fire in a suburban Portland, Ore., mall crowded with holiday shoppers, killing two people and wounding at least one other person in an apparently random attack before taking his own life, authorities said Wednesday.
Clackamas Country Sheriff Craig Roberts said the shooter didn't appear to be targeting anyone in particular when he entered the Clackamas Town Center on Tuesday and fired as many as 60 shots.
"It looked as though it was a random shooting," Roberts told NBC's Today show Wednesday. "It's very apparent he had a mission set forth to take the lives of people in that mall."
Roberts would not reveal the identity of the gunman because of the ongoing investigation. He said the identity of the victims would be released later Wednesday. He confirmed the shooter was wearing a mask but couldn't say whether he had on body armor.
Roberts said that the number of law enforcement officers responding to the scene -- at least 100 -- helped reduce the number of casualties as well as the fact that the shooter's gun jammed. None of the officers fired weapons.
Hundreds of holiday shoppers and store workers were in the mall when the first shots were heard around 3:30 p.m. PT. The mall is one of the biggest in the state.
As the shooting started many of the shoppers immediately took cover or hid in stores inside the mall while the gunman fired as many as 60 shots.
"It was chaos," Roberts said. He said 10,000 people were in the mall at the time.
Law enforcement officers went through the mall room by room to be sure no more terrified bystanders were still hiding more than two hours after the shooting, Rhodes said. He said at least one person was hospitalized with "traumatic injury."
Witnesses described the gunman as wearing a white mask and carrying a high-powered rifle. They said he fired a series of rounds in the mall's food court area. of the mall.
Austin Patty, 20, who works at Macy's, said he saw a man in a white mask carrying a rifle and wearing a bulletproof vest, and told the Associated Press that he heard the gunman say, "I am the shooter," as if announcing himself. Patty said he ducked to the ground as a series of rapid shots were fired, then ran to safety.
Alina Pavlenko, 16, who was working at a cupcake stand in the mall, said she saw the gunman shoot at a woman and watched her fall, then saw the shooter point in her direction and fire.
"He looked straight at me, and he aimed but he missed," Pavlenko told The Oregonian. She said she froze.
"He kept on shooting, and he kept on walking," Pavlenko said. "He wasn't running. He was walking so slow. He dropped the thing he used to load bullets, and he just slowly picked it up and put back in again."
Hannah Baggs, 14, said she looked directly at the gunman just moments before he entered the mall and opened fire. "He was, like, 10 feet away from us, wearing a white mask and carrying something heavy with both hands," the high school freshman told The Oregonian. "He went running into the store. I was scared, but I didn't tell my mom because I didn't want to get her upset."
Julie Donohue, 60, of Milwaukie, Ore., told the newspaper she was sitting near the windows in a restaurant when she heard screaming and saw people fleeing Macy's."I told the people around me that we had to leave now. I left my food and got outside just as the police arrived," Donohue said. "I just couldn't stop shaking."
Kira Rowland told KGW-TV that she was shopping at Macy's with her infant son when the shots started.
"All of a sudden you hear two shots, which sounded like balloons popping," Rowland told the station. "Everybody got on the ground. I grabbed the baby from the stroller and got on the ground."
Rowland said she heard people screaming and crying.
"I put the baby back in the stroller and ran like hell," Rowland said. "It was awful. It was shots after shots after shots like a massacre."
Camille Shupe, 20, of Monmouth, Ore., was reading books at the Barnes & Noble store when she heard loud pops. She did not immediately recognize them as gunfire but saw people running from the store.
"I dropped my phone and left," she said. "I knew this is for real.''