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Report: Web post 'warned' about shooting

by: PHOTO COURTESY: CCSO - A bullet hole in a window at Clackamas Town Center was one of several that Clackamas County law enforcement found after the Dec. 11 shooting. The local community responded by memorializing the victims, Steve Forsyth and Cindy Yuille.Was an Internet chat-room warning posted one day before December’s shooting at Clackamas Town Center a legitimate threat or just a bad joke?

Detectives investigating the Dec. 11, 2012, shooting weren’t able to come to a conclusion about the anonymously posted warning because tracing its electronic origin led to a dead end. Clackamas County’s forensics computer team tried to track the posting’s electronic footprint, but was unable to find who posted it.

“Detectives followed the lead all the way to the end,” said Sgt. Robert Wurpes, Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office spokesman. “We weren’t able to get anything on it because the whole site is anonymous postings.”

Wurpes said there was no way to tie the Web posting to 22-year-old Jacob Tyler Roberts, who jogged into the mall at about 3:29 p.m. on Dec. 11 and began shooting a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, killing two people and seriously wounding a 15-year-old girl. Roberts’ nearly 20-minute attack on shoppers in the mall ended at about 3:51 p.m. when law enforcement officers found his body in a service stairwell. He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The warning posted on the Web chat site 4chan (a site for video gamers and manga fans) was ominous and threatening: “Tomorrow, watch the news, Clackamas Town Center Mall.” (posted Dec. 10 at 2:25 p.m.)

A second posting was even more specific: “I am going to shoot up this f*** mall tomorrow and you will see.” (posted Dec. 10 at 2:35 p.m.)

Tips about the website posting came from two people a day after the shooting. A Clackamas man who worked at the mall sent a link to the posting to the sheriff’s office. A Milwaukie woman also alerted detectives to the posting on Dec. 12 after she saw it in a Twitter feed.

More tips came about the posting from all over the country after it had been reposted several times on Twitter and other sites, Wurpes said. Detectives followed up on dozens of tips from people about the shooting, and the 4chan posting was just one of those that they couldn’t verify or trace.

Information about the anonymous posting was included in two reports that were part of the 926-page investigation file released last week by the sheriff’s office. The reports detailed the chaotic and frightening minutes from the time Roberts jogged through the mall’s Macy’s store and began firing on people in the food court.

The shooting killed 45-year-old Steve Forsyth of West Linn and 54-year-old Cindy Yuille of Portland. It also seriously wounded 15-year-old Clackamas student Kristina Shevchenko.

Heading to Hawaii?

Before Roberts went to the mall that Tuesday afternoon, the sheriff’s office investigation found that he spent time with two friends, telling them and others he planned to move to Hawaii.

Investigators said Roberts “smoked a bowl” of marijuana with his friends in the lead-up to the shooting. Roberts visited his friend Tyler Eheler, who lives two miles from mall at 3 p.m, when the two talked about Roberts leaving to Hawaii and smoked a small amount of marijuana.

Roberts stole the rifle used in the shooting from his friend Sean Cates who legally purchased it in 2011, according to the CCSO report. Cates told investigators that he woke up on Dec. 11 at 4 p.m. to find the rifle gone, along with Roberts, who had also slept at Cates’ home, where he shared more marijuana. Cates apparently told a co-worker that the rifle was missing at 5 p.m. After the co-worker called Cates about the mall shootings, Cates reported the rifle missing to Portland Police at 7 p.m.

Investigators say they still have not been able to determine a motive for Roberts’ crime, despite interviews with hundreds of witnesses as well as family members, co-workers and Roberts’ friends.

The report also indicted that Roberts may have carefully planned the crimes. On Dec. 8, Roberts bought two 30-round AR-15 magazines from a local gun shop, then two 20-count boxes of .223 ammo, ear plugs and paper targets at a local big-box retailer. On Dec. 9, he bought two 30-round AR-15 magazines and paper targets from a sporting-goods store, then bought four 20-count boxes of .223 ammo and paper targets at a local big-box retailer. He also listed his car for sale on Craigslist that day, when his roommates returned from a weekend trip and were surprised to find him still still there. Roberts told his roommates he had partied on Friday night, and so overslept and missed his flight. However, Roberts added in that conversation that he still planned to go to Hawaii and said that he had switched his flight date to the next weekend.

Thanking the responders

When he released details about the investigation on May 1, Sheriff Craig Roberts offered CCSO’s “sincere condolences” to the Forsyth, Yuille and Shevchenko families for the pain and losses they suffered, thanking them for their cooperation and understanding during this investigation.

“We also extend our thanks to all the citizens present at the Clackamas Town Center who helped their family, friends, co-workers, customers and strangers get to a place of safety when the violence erupted,” he said. “I also thank our many partners in public safety from around the region — first responders came to the mall with expedience, put themselves willingly into harm's way and stayed to provide assistance as long as they were needed.”

Clackamas Town Center’s management team and General Growth Properties had the foresight, he noted, to train with CCSO for an active-shooter situation in the mall.

“Preparing their staff and merchants for the worst possible situation not only showed responsible caretaking, but also set an example for the rest of our region and the nation,” he added.

Reporter Kevin Harden contributed to this news story.