The gunman was found dead inside the grocery store chain with an AR-15 style rifle beside him, police said
By Johanna Chisholm
At least three people are dead after a gunman armed with an AR-15-style rifle opened fire into an Oregon Safeway on Sunday night, police said.
Two of the victims were said to have been fatally wounded by the shooter, who has yet to be identified. The assailant was later found dead inside the grocery store with a gunshot wound, police said in a statement.
Police responded to the scene of the mass shooting after receiving multiple 911 calls shortly after 7pm at the Forum Shopping Center in Bend, Oregon, located about 130 miles southeast of the state’s capital, Salem.
At a Sunday evening press conference delivered by Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz, the department relayed how they believed the gunman entered the supermarket from a residential area behind the parking lot of the shopping centre, beginning his shootout by prowling through the parked area in front of Costco and Big Lots before making his way to Safeway.
Police said there were no reported injuries from the initial shooting in the parking lot.
The gunman then moved into the Safeway grocery chain through the west entrance, where he shot and injured the first victim who was later transported to Saint Charles hospital. That person, who has yet to be identified by authorities, was declared dead shortly after succumbing to their injuries.
The active shooter then reportedly continued through the aisles of the store, wounding an unverified number of people and fatally injuring one more person, police said.
When police entered the store, they found the gunman dead from what appeared to be a gunshot wound, though Chief Krantz confirmed during the evening press conference that no gunfire was exchanged between the officers responding to the massacre and the gunman.
The shopping plaza was swarming with multiple law enforcement agencies for hours afterwards, local news outlets and social media reports showed.
Police said that an AR-15 style rifle was found beside the dead body of the active shooter.
One person who remained in hospital at Saint Charles was reportedly in “good” condition, according to a report from The New York Times.
Initially, officers began responding to several reports of other shootings taking place across the city, but Chief Krantz confirmed during the briefing that there was no evidence to support that there were any additional shootings.
“We found no evidence of additional shootings in our community,” he said, noting that officers remained at the scenes of where the various shootings had been reported for “quite some time” as an extra precautionary measure.
Chief Krantz added that this was an open investigation and given the size of the crime scene, it will take significant resources to collect and process all of the relevant evidence.
“We ask that our community be patient as we work through this investigation and determine all additional leads. We also ask our community if you have leads or have any information about this incident please call,” he said, before stating that more updates would be provided on Monday morning.
The hospital that treated two of the victims injured and killed during the shootout stated in a follow-up Facebook post late Sunday night that they went into lockdown shortly after the active shooting was confirmed and remained that way for several hours afterwards.
“Walking into the hospital tonight, I saw the halls of the Emergency Department lined with caregivers and physicians ready to handle a mass casualty event if needed,” said Dr Mark Hallett, chief clinical officer for St Charles, in a statement shared on the hospital’s Facebook page. “In a terrifying moment, it was an impressive and reassuring sight.”
Two victims were taken to the Bend hospital, with the one being declared dead on arrival and the other was reported in good condition.
“I’m incredibly sad and sorry that we live in a world where we have to worry about mass shootings, but I’m so proud of our caregivers’ and physicians’ actions tonight,” said Dr Steve Gordon, interim President and CEO of St Charles.
The hospital was in lockdown until 11pm and an additional brigade of security officers was called in to stay on site for the remainder of Sunday night through Monday morning out of an abundance of caution, the hospital said.
Witnesses at the scene described how an otherwise calm and ordinary Sunday evening at the shopping centre had unexpectedly turned into a chaotic scene where gunshots were described by some as being “sprayed” through the store.
Mary Taroli, 40, said in an interview with The Bulletin that she had been inside the grocery store shopping for dinner alongside her husband when she and him heard the gunfire erupt from inside the aisles.
Ms Taroli, who took out her own handgun when she heard children screaming and gunshots echoing through the store, described how she heard employees shouting at shoppers to “go, go, go” as they attempted to shepherd them to the stock room or the back door to escape the onslaught.
Josh Caba, a father of four who was inside the store with his young family when the active shooter entered, told KTVZ that he heard at least “six or seven” shots when he started shouting at his children to “run!” out of the building.
“People were screaming. … it was a horrifying experience,” Mr Caba told KTVZ.
Employees of the grocery store were sent scattered across the store and the parking lot, with The Bulletin reporting that at least a dozen had sought shelter in a nearby business after they’d heard the gunfire erupt.
Molly Sanden, a Safeway employee, told the local news outlet that she heard the gunman fire off multiple rounds, while her co-worker, Jake Daniels, said he heard three shots followed by another six.
A neighbour who lives across the street from the Bend grocery store told Central Oregon Daily News how she first mistook the sound of gunfire for the sound of a car backfiring. It wasn’t until the massive police presence and additional gunfire that she realised that something else must’ve been afoot.
“Less than a minute later, there were 10 to 20 shots and then another 10 to 20 shots. And by that time, I went inside and told my dad to get away from the window. And people were running out of Safeway,” Ms Thompson said.
By her account, the police arrived at the scene of the shooting within a matter of seconds of the gunfire escaping from the halls of the store.
Bend Police asked Monday morning that people in the area continue to avoid the Forum Shopping Center as they continue to conduct their investigation of the scene.
US Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon took to Twitter late on Sunday night to offer his condolences to the residents of Bend, noting how this latest iteration of a mass shooting at a public venue continued to highlight America’s still unresolved issue of gun violence.
“My heart breaks for the families of the victims and the many people whose routine Sunday evening shopping turned into a terrifying run for their lives in Bend,” wrote the Democratic lawmaker.
“This doesn’t have to happen. It’s not normal in any other country. High-powered assault rifles with high-capacity magazines, combined with personal grievances and often a culture of hate, create a toxic stew that leaves good people, innocent people dead, maimed, and traumatized,” he added, before asking that people “come together” to put an end “to this madness”.