Mall shooter: "World will feel my anger"
The 20-year-old man had shot six people and was holed up with hostages in a record store at the Tacoma Mall when he sent a text-message...
Seattle Times staff reporters
The 20-year-old man had shot six people and was holed up with hostages in a record store at the Tacoma Mall when he sent a cellphone text message to his best friend: "The world will feel my anger."
Bret Strickler, who got the message, said his friend never explained why he had gone on the Sunday afternoon shooting rampage. But his friend had seemed different the day before, when Strickler, 18, said he last saw him.
"He was quiet," said Strickler.
Shortly after noon Sunday, whatever had been eating at the young man erupted. Wearing a dress shirt and tie, the man let loose a barrage of gunfire that sent hundreds of shoppers fleeing for their lives as he strolled through the mall, firing randomly with an assault-style rifle.
As many as 20 shots were fired as the gunman walked along, yelling and firing his rifle.
Within minutes he had taken four hostages — including a 9-year-old boy — at the Sam Goody music shop.
Early in the standoff, the boy was let go. By 4 p.m., the gunman surrendered, releasing the other three hostages unharmed.
The Tacoma Mall reopened for business at noon today.
Of his six victims, one was listed in critical condition at Tacoma General Hospital suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. A seventh person, who was not shot, was treated and released at a hospital.
Tacoma police booked Dominick Sergio Maldonado into the Pierce County Jail. During his brief court appearance Monday afternoon in Pierce County Superior Court, Maldonado pleaded not guilty to eight counts of first-degree assault, four counts of kidnapping, and two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm. He was ordered held on $2 million bail.
"I never dreamed this was ever going to happen," said Ronice Strickler, Bret's aunt and an acquaintance of Maldonado's. "He seemed to be the responsible one of the kids, because he had a job and he paid for his own car."
Police locked down the mall for hours as they negotiated with Maldonado, who had retreated to the Sam Goody store, where he was holding two store employees and a customer.
Mary Simon, the mother of Maldonado's ex-girlfriend, Tiffany Robison, said her daughter also got a text message Sunday from Maldonado, apparently minutes before he started shooting up the mall.
"It was lengthy, six or seven sentences, but the upshot was, 'the world is going to feel my pain,' " Simon said.
Initially, Simon said, she was ready to "chalk it up to attention-getting." But her daughter said no.
"She said, 'You don't know him. He's going to do something bad,' " Simon recalled.
Simon said her daughter called Maldonado almost immediately. "He said he couldn't talk, that he was kind of busy ... that he was in the record store."
Court records show Maldonado has a juvenile criminal history dating back to 1998. He has been convicted of burglary, theft and trafficking in stolen property, and the records indicate he had been ordered by a judge not to possess any weapons.
The Pierce County court files indicate that Maldonado had struggled with drugs for years. In 1998, after being convicted of burglary and theft, he was ordered into treatment and to submit to random drug testing. In 2003, after Maldonado pleaded guilty to burglary, a judge "strongly recommended" that he be sent to boot camp. The file does not indicate whether that occurred.
Maldonado had worked at a Tacoma Subway sandwich shop until about four months ago, according to co-workers.
One co-worker, Ryan Gilman, who said Maldonado had trained him on the night shift, described him as quiet but said he seemed "twitchy."
Another co-worker, Edward Zeke, described Maldonado as a gun enthusiast who was "unstable, with a drug problem."
One of the hostages was shopping for music at Sam Goody with his wife when the shooting began. The wife, Desiree, who didn't want the couple's last name used, said she was waiting in line to pay when she heard gunshots.
She and the other customers "hit the floor," she said, then ran to the back of the store and out the emergency exit. When she got outside, she realized her husband, Jon, had not followed her out.
Security personnel "would not let me back in," she said.
During the four hours before her husband was released, Desiree said, he called her and sent a text message.
"He told me that it was going to be OK, that he was going to make it, and that he loved me," she said.
The couple were married a month ago. The husband is in the Army, stationed at Fort Lewis.
He and the other man being held hostage, who was an assistant manager and who had military training, were able to help talk the shooter into releasing them, Desiree said.
"They just talked about life in general," she said. "They personalized it. They talked about their lives, their families, why they wanted to get out of there."
Police negotiators also talked to Maldonado by phone throughout the ordeal.
Maldonado kept the hostages against a wall and let them take bathroom breaks and make phone calls. He kept his gun close by, Desiree said, but didn't keep it trained on the hostages.
"He was very adamant on not wanting to hurt anyone else," she said. "He was not threatening them."
Maldonado did talk about his motive for the shootings, but Desiree said police had asked that she and her husband not disclose that conversation.
Among the injured was Roberta Davis, who suffered a gunshot wound in her leg just above the knee. She said she was close enough to the man to see the muzzle flashes as he fired.
Davis, 53, of Port Orchard, said she had been shopping at JC Penney and never felt the bullet pass through her thigh as she fled.
"I didn't realize I'd been shot until partway through my run," she said. "I said to my husband, 'Oh, my leg hurts.' I looked down at my pant and there was a hole in it and blood coming down my leg."
Doctors told her the round came close to shattering her femur.
"I'm still trembling inside. I'm exhausted," she said, back at her home.
Kat Frossard said she was shopping for sunglasses at a kiosk near a Christmas display when she heard "Crack! Crack! Crack!"
"Then this man falls right in front of me," with a bullet wound in his calf, she said. Frossard, of Tacoma, ducked behind a planter, then stood up to see what was happening when other shoppers started yelling, "Gunfire! Gunfire!"
Frossard said someone pulled her into the nearby Abercrombie & Fitch store.
Robert Morley, an employee at JC Penney, said he had arrived early for work and was walking out of the Sam Goody store when he saw a clean-cut man, with short hair and wearing a tan jacket, armed with a rifle and walking through the mall firing. He said he thought the man had pulled the weapon from beneath his jacket.
"I ducked and just headed into the Disney Store," Morley said. "I was scared but I did what I had to do."
Witnesses said the shooting went on for about 45 seconds, scattering shoppers and resulting in a massive police and fire response.
Many fled into nearby stores where some took refuge, then slipped out back exits. As they fled, dozens were blocked by police from reaching their cars and were left to mill around across the street as police locked down the mall and tried to establish communications with the man.
LaSharr Noel, an employee at Life Uniforms, described the chaos and screaming in the mall: "People were running into the store and hiding in the dressing rooms."
Susan Serveau, whose 24-year-old daughter, Kathy Riggans, is the Sam Goody store manager and was taken hostage by the gunman, said she spoke with her daughter by telephone shortly after the shooting subsided.
"She was very distraught," an emotional Serveau told reporters in the mall parking lot as she awaited news from police. "She said, 'Yes, I'm being held hostage at the mall.' "
Serveau said her daughter told her she was with her assistant manager and a customer.
"We waited him out," said Tacoma police spokesman Mark Fulghum. "He's in custody and the hostages are all safe."
Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Julia Sommerfeld: 206-464-2708 or email@example.com; Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff reporter Warren Cornwall and researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.
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