Omaha Police Sergeant Jeff Baker remembers the events of December 5, 2007 like it was yesterday. He remembers being called to the Von Maur store at Westroads Mall for an active shooter situation. He was one of the first ones at the scene.
Sergeant Baker says, “I can literally smell the gunfire hanging in the air and that was opposed to Christmas music playing in the background. There was a baby stroller with no baby in it. There was a woman’s handbag right by the baby stroller that was dropped on the ground. A few feet away there was a coffee cup on the ground, spilled. There was obviously a very fast mass exodus from the store when the gunfire began.”
A woman who wants just wants to be known as Sarah says she remembers hearing a repetitive popping sound. She and other shoppers took cover inside a storage closet. She remembers those inside were trying to barricade the door with what they could find.
Fred Wilson was an employee at Von Maur ten years ago and says, “I saw a young man and for a very short while I questioned why he wasn’t hiding and that someone was shooting. Then I realized he was the gunman. He made his way to customer service, moved around erratically and one just tried to hide but that was not completely possible.” Wilson was critically wounded and lost nearly all of his blood after being hit by gunfire. He barely survived the mass shooting. Wilson says the horror of that day is replayed in his mind with each new mass shooting in the United States.
Nine people died that day. Six store employees, two customers and the gunman.
Sergeant Baker says the Omaha Police Department is much better prepared today to handle a mass shooting than 10 years ago. He says there are 140 more officers trained on the AR-15 style rifles and paramedics are now trained to work with law enforcement to enter shooting areas more quickly to help save lives.