"Everybody was scared, and we didn't know what was going on,"  

Belene Esaw-Kagbara, a Von Maur employee, told the Associated Press.

 

"We didn't know what to do. I was praying that God protect us."

 

"We didn't know what to do. I was praying that God protect us"

Belene Esaw-Kagbara, Von Maur store employee

Shopper Jennifer Kramer, who was in the mall when the shooting started, told local KETV that she and her mother hid in a clothes rack until police told them it was safe to leave.

 

"We were hiding in a clothes rack and that's when I called 911. But we were just waiting for the police to come to tell us we could go because we didn't know if the guy was dead or if he was still walking around shooting," she said.

 

George Bush, the US president, was in Omaha on Wednesday on a fundraising visit for his Republican party, but left the city about an hour before the shooting.

 

Recent US shootings


March 2005: A 16-year-old high school student kills five students, a teacher and a security guard at a school in Minnesota before killing himself.

October 2006: Five girls killed and five others injured after being taken hostage at an Amish school in Pennsylvania.  Gunman Charles Carl Roberts kills himself.

February 2007: Gunman at Trolley Square mall in Salt Lake City kills five and wounds four before being shot dead by police.

April 2007: In the deadliest shooting in recent US history, student Cho Seung-Hui kills 32 people in rampage at Virginia Tech university before killing himself.

Police have named the gunman in Wednesday's shootings as Robert A. Hawkins, age 19 or 20.

 

They said he left a suicide note that was found at his home by relatives.

 

One woman who had known Hawkins in the days before the shooting said he had recently been fired from his job at a nearby McDonald's and had broken up with his girlfriend.

 

Local television reports said the man wrote in the note that he wanted to "go out in style."

 

Gun ownership is widespread in the US with an estimated 200 million guns in circulation among a population of about 300 million. A survey in 2001 found about 39 per cent of all American households own at least one gun.

 

The issue of gun control and the constitutional right to bear arms is hotly debated.

 

Wednesday's attack was the second mass shooting at a US mall this year. In February, nine people were shot, five of them fatally, at Trolley Square mall in Salt Lake City, Utah.

 

In April a Korean-born student shot 32 people before killing himself at Virginia Tech university in the worst mass shooting in recent US history.