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Clear Lake Mirror Reporter
Clear Lake, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Thursday, December 6, 2007

Former Clear Lake Teacher
Injured in Omaha Mall Shooting

A former Clear Lake teacher was among the persons injured in the tragic shooting at an Omaha, Neb. shopping mall Wednesday, Dec. 5.

Fred WILSON, 61, who taught at Clear Lake High School in the 1970's, was taken to Nebraska Medical Center in critical condition after being shot in the arm. His condition has since been upgraded to serious.

Robert HAWKINS, 19, opened fire at Westroads Mall on Wednesday afternoon. It was the worst mass slaying in Nebraska history and claimed the lives of five men and three women, plus the shooter. Five more were injured, two critically, police said. An SKS-style assault rifle with two magazines taped together was found at the scene.

By Thursday morning, WILSON had been upgraded to serious. Doctors said he was hit in the arm and they hope to save the limb.

WILSON served as the customer service manager for Von Maur, the department store where the shooting took place.

WILSON is a retired teacher that taught English at St. Albert Catholic High School in Council Bluffs and Shenandoah, Iowa in addition to Clear Lake.

~ ~ ~ ~

KETV-7 ABC, Omaha, Nebraska
December 05, 2007

Portraits Of Victims Emerge
Victims Ages 24-66 Were Employees, Customers

OMAHA, Neb. -- A woman who had just celebrated her golden anniversary, a woman adored by her nieces and nephew and a man who loved river rafting are among the dead after a gunman opened fire at an Omaha mall on Wednesday, killing himself and eight others.

Names of the victims were revealed by Police Chief Thomas WARREN on Thursday. They are: Gary SCHARF, 48, a customer and resident of Lincoln; John McDONALD, 65, a customer and resident of Council Bluffs, Iowa; Angella SCHUSTER, 36, an employee; Maggie WEBB, 24, an employee; Janet JOREGENSEN, 67, an employee; Dianne TRENT, 53, an employee; Gary JOY, 56, an employee; and Beverly FLYNN, 47, an employee.


JORGENSEN'S sister-in-law said the victim had three children and eight grandchildren. She and her husband had just celebrated 50 years of marriage. Her family said she loved working at Von Maur in the crystal department. She also did a lot of charity work. Her daughter-in-law said JORGENSEN was friendly and outgoing, popular at work and everywhere else.

A family friend, three grandchildren and a son-in-law all shared memories of JORGENSEN on Friday morning. They said she worked at Von Maur since it opened in Omaha, and that she had an impact on everyone she knew.

Grandchildren Ryan and Andi HUSK, of Fort Calhoun, said they still expect their grandmother to call and check in -- they have yet to accepted that she is gone.

"Grandma and grandpa were the definition of true love," Ryan HUSK said. "They were the epitome of true love."

Andi HUSK said she hopes her upcoming marriage will follow her grandparents' example. She said JORGENSEN was acting as her wedding planner, and she plans a tribute to her to be part of the wedding.

She said the family plans to celebrate a happy Christmas, too.

"We know that Grandma is really here with us, and she would be upset with us if we didn't go on just make it the best Christmas," Andi HUSK said.

"Probably my youngest childhood memory is actually my grandmother rocking me in a wooden chair . . and singing, 'You are my Sunshine,'" Ryan HUSK said. "I was probably 3, or so."

JORGENSEN'S visitation is scheduled for 2-4 p.m. Sunday at Heafey, Heafey, Hoffman Funeral Home. The JORGENSEN family plans a memorial service later that night at St. James Catholic Church at 7:30 p.m. The funeral is planned for 10 a.m. Monday at St. James.


WEBB, the youngest of the victims, was just two weeks from her 25th birthday. She was a native of Port Byron, Ill. A friend said WEBB had just moved to Omaha in November to work as a new "up-and-coming" manager at Von Maur. She was a cat lover. The Illinois State University Pantagraph reports that WEBB graduated from ISU with a degree in business administration in 2005. She is the daughter of Dave and Vicki WEBB of Port Byron.

In Moline, Ill, where WEBB worked at another Von Maur, flags are flying at half-staff. Friends said the she worked here in the shoe department while in high school, transferred to Chicago and then to Omaha.

Ryan MATHIAS said he has been friends with Webb since high school.

"I'm angry," MATHIAS said. "I'm angry at that kid. I don't understand why he took something so beautiful from this world."

WEBB was a Moline High School honors student who was involved in student government and peer counseling. Educators there said they are stunned by news about one of their own.

"Teachers who talk about Maggie, they say things like, exceptional, caring, genuine," said Principal Bill BURRUS.


SCHARF was a customer on the third-floor of Von Maur when he was caught in a barrage of gunfire. Gary SCHARF'S family said he was buying some clothes before flying out on a business trip. His sister said he was a national sales manager for a life sciences company. SCHARF grew up on a farm in Curtis, Neb. The family said they always gathered at the farm in Curtis to celebrate holidays, and had just done so this Thanksgiving. They said he was an excellent father to his son Steve, loving son, and a great family man. They said he had a "total love for animals and for the Earth."

On Friday, Doris SCHARF shared some of her favorite memories of her son.

"He took his teddy bear outside, and I said, 'Where you going?' And he said, 'I'm going to show him to God,'" Doris SCHARF said.

The victim's son, Steve, said his father was his best friend.

Nobody is ever going to be a perfect father, but if my dad wasn't the perfect father, he was my best friend," Steve SCHARF said.

Steve SCHARF said he found out about his father's death on Wednesday night.

"The last time we spoke on the phone, I was at work, and he said, 'I love you. You're at work and you think twice about saying it, and you know? I'm glad I did. 'I love you,' and that was important," Steve SCHARF said. "Geez, we talk to each other every day. I know we love each other, and I thought about saying, 'We know, we don't really need to say it.' Now, I'm glad I never said that. 1 wouldn't take back one I love you. What I wouldn't give to talk to him once more."


JOY'S mother, Inez, said her son visited often at the retirement community where she and her sister live. She said her son was pursuing a degree in literature at Bellevue University. She said her son loved to write poetry and stories.

She said he donated his organs. She called that typical of the way he always helped others.

"He was helping somebody," said Inez JOY, 91. "That's what he wanted to do." JOY said she will always remember the attention he paid to her. She said he always came when she needed help, and would often visit to have dinner with her.


SCHUSTER'S family said in a statement that she was born in Dubuque, Iowa, and graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 1994 with a degree in education. She worked as the manager of the girls' department of Von Maur on the third floor. She had worked at Von Maur for about 10 years.

"Angie was a very sweet and tender person and was loved by everyone that knew her," the statement said. "Angie was a devoted sister and aunt. She was very close to both of her sisters who live in Nebraska. She was a wonderful aunt to her two nieces and her nephew. She really loved children and talked about her nieces and nephew all the time. She was in love with her boyfriend and very happy about the life they were planning together. Angie always kept in touch with all the friends she made throughout her life and had many devoted friends around the country that she knew from college and her childhood."

SCHUSTER'S older sister, Donna KENKEL, said they last saw each other Sunday at a child's birthday party at the Omaha zoo. Her brother-in-law, Jeff KENKEL, said she and her boyfriend of about 18 months were planning on getting engaged and eventually getting married.


P.J. McDONALD is a chaplain for the Clive Fire and Police Departments. He told KETV sister station KCCI on Thursday morning that his brother was at the mall Christmas shopping with his wife when he was shot.

"People enjoying their Christmas shopping on a pleasant afternoon, and then to have nine lives lost -- one of them my brother. It's a terrible thing," McDONALD said. "My brother was a gentle soul. If there was one thing that would be a characteristic of his, it was the fact that he did not like violence."

McDONALD said he hopes that people watching this story from around the world will take a moment to look at their own lives.

"I again invite people observing this to take some time and think about where we are with some of our violent acts that we no longer need to entertain, and just softening of the heart," the chaplain said.

Despite his training, McDONALD said he isn't functioning well right now.

"I can be a chaplain for other people, but on my own behalf, I am useless. I am devastated by this horrible turn of events," he said. "When I heard it, I had no response. I sat there and cried. That's all I could do."

The grieving brother said he remembers a wonderful soul.

"Happy memories of summertime, when we would go river rafting, the Salmon River in Idaho was one of our favorite places, we would go fishing or sometimes we'd just meet and just sit and talk," he said.


Von Maur employee Janice HOPKINS watched as the names of the victims were read on Thursday morning. HOPKINS worked beside many of them, including FLYNN -- a mother of three and fellow gift wrapper.

"This was her second season. She was also a real estate agent -- did this for Christmas because she thought it was fun and she liked the discount. Didn't do it for the money, she liked working," HOPKINS said.

Dave MOODY was FLYNN'S office manager. He said she was a wonderful real estate agent and well-respected.

Counselors were expected at the NP Dodge office at 1 p.m. Thursday and employees planned to take a collection for the family.


Creighton University said two of its employees in the Undergraduate Admissions Office are mourning the loss of family members. Gail BACHTELL'S aunt, JORGENSEN, and Deb KOLHAR'S cousin, TRENT, are among those who died.

TRENT'S family attorney, Dennis P. LEE, released a statement.

"Dianne was the third oldest of six siblings. She leaves behind four sisters and a brother who loved her very much. She grew up in Omaha. She attended St. Pius and Marian High School and graduated from Benson High School. Dianne was a dedicated worker at Von Maur for the last eight years. She was a gentle, generous, soft-spoken woman who loved the Lord. Dianne enjoyed vacationing with her family. She loved the Christmas season and shopping. She lovingly took in animals. Anyone who met her loved her. She was a fabulous aunt to 10 nieces and 13 nephews. She will be greatly missed by her family and friends."

TRENT'S funeral is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Monday at St. Leo Catholic Church.

Creighton University Medical Center trauma director Dr. Leon SYKES said JOY was the first victim who arrived at their trauma center. He was dead on arrival. FLYNN had a gunshot wound to the chest and minimal life signs, the doctors said, but emergency medical technicians were doing CPR and she was taken to surgery. After 45 minutes, she was pronounced dead.

Wounded Man Called 'Joyful'
The wounded are: Fred WILSON, 61, and Micheale OLDHAM, 65, who were both critical but stable on Thursday morning.

At 11 a.m. Thursday, WILSON had been upgraded to serious. Doctors said he was hit in the arm and they hope to save the limb.

Speaking from the medical center on Thursday afternoon, WILSON'S family said their hearts go to the families of the dead. They said they've spent a lot of time with WILSON, and he reacts to them a little bit.

Family said WILSON loves his second career in customer service, after retiring from teaching in Iowa. They said his interests are wide and varied, and he is passionate about his hobbies. They said he's a joyful person and it's contagious.

OLDHAM had taken two gunshot wounds; one to the abdomen and one to the back, SYKES said. She was taken into surgery, and on Thursday morning was in intensive care.

Jeff SCHAFFART, 34, and Brad Stafford, 55, were both treated and released.

A fifth person hospitalized after the shooting apparently had a medical condition unrelated, and was not identified, WARREN said.

~ ~ ~ ~

KETV-7 ABC, Omaha, Nebraska
December 07, 2007

State Spent $265K On Hawkins' Care
Mall Shooter Was State Ward For 4 Years

OMAHA, Neb. -- Nebraska spent $265,000 and four years trying to provide help to the 19-year-old who became the Westroads Mall shooter on Wednesday afternoon.

Eight people were killed, in addition to the shooter, Robert A. HAWKINS.

Gov. Dave HEINEMAN said HAWKINS became a ward of the state on Sept. 17, 2002, but parental rights were not terminated and none of his siblings were state wards. HAWKINS was terminated as a state ward on Aug. 24, 2006.

Todd LANDRY, the director of Child and Family Services for the Department of Health and Human Services, said the state spent $265,000 on services provided to Hawkins over the four years he was a state ward. Landry said Hawkins was made a state ward with no parental fault, but because he needed services, which included stays at residential centers and in-patient at a hospital.

LANDRY said HAWKINS stayed at a facility in Missouri called Piney Ridge, plus Omaha's Cooper Village, Lutheran Family Services and Addiction and Behavioral Health Services Inc. LANDRY said those homes provide addiction counseling, mental-health counseling and behavioral counseling, among other services, but he could not say exactly what HAWKINS was treated for under federal and state privacy laws.

LANDRY did say that one of the treatment periods came after HAWKINS threatened to kill his stepmother.

Hawkins Timeline:
  • 2002 became ward of the state
  • February 2003 taken to Cooper Village
  • November 2003 arrested for a fight
  • December 2004 enters foster care
  • March 2005 charged with possession with intent to deliver
  • December 2005 went to live with his father in La Vista
  • August 2006 state care ends under court order

    While a state ward, he was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, mood disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and parent-child relations problems.

    LANDRY said HAWKINS was "provided quality services for a youth that needed it."

    At Papillion-La Vista High School, the school HAWKINS dropped out of a few years ago, the principal said he was unmotivated and troubled but never violent.

    "He struggled as far as education, following the rules, but you'd have never thought he was cable of that," said Principal Jim GLOVER.

    Chief Outlines Shooter's Day

    On Thursday morning, Omaha Police Chief Thomas WARREN said HAWKINS was in and out of Von Maur before he opened fire.

    HAWKINS opened fire at 1:42 p.m. Wednesday. WARREN said surveillance video shows HAWKINS entering the store twice.

    The second time, he entered the main entrance on the first level of Von Maur about six minutes before police received the first call for shots fired. He said the tapes show that HAWKINS was obviously hiding something in a black sweatshirt.

    "He took the elevator to the third floor," WARREN said. "Upon exiting the elevator, he immediately started firing shots."

    It seems that HAWKINS started shooting near the children's department. That's where 34-year-old attorney Jeff SCHAFFORD was shot in the arm.

    On the third floor, HAWKINS walked past the escalator atrium and shot down to the second floor, killing a customer, the chief said. He then walked to customer service.

    "Several people were mortally injured. Multiple shots fired. In a recessed customer service area, he encountered several individuals (then) took his own life," WARREN said.

    Customers, shocked and scared, said that's when they began rushing for exits. By the time police arrived, the shooting was over.

    WARREN speculated that at least 30 rounds were fired from an AK-47 rifle. WARREN said he believes the weapon was stolen from HAWKINS' stepfather. WARREN said the gun had two 30-round magazines with the ability to fire off rounds quickly.

    HAWKINS apparently left two suicide notes and a will, prompting WARREN to call the shootings premeditated. The chief said people may never know why he went on a rampage. WARREN said it appears that the victims were chosen randomly. He said it also appears the mall was chosen because it's a large public place where he'd get a lot of attention.

    WARREN said HAWKINS left voice and text messages for his mother, friends and an ex-girlfriend and that HAWKINS visited a friend near Westroads before the shooting.

    HAWKINS was due in Sarpy County Court this month on minor in possession charges. In 2006, charges filed against him in Washington County related to drugs had been dropped.

    ~ ~ ~ ~

    KETV-7 ABC, Omaha, Nebraska
    December 07, 2007

    Wednesday's Details Revealed

    OMAHA, Neb. -- Overnight, KETV NewsWatch 7 cameras were near the mall as the shooting victims were taken from Von Maur by the coroner's office.

    Hours earlier, when the shooting began, shoppers and employees filed out of Westroads stores in fear while police and paramedics headed into the mall looking for victims.

    "Everybody started screaming," said witness Daphne REDMOND. "We hit the stock room and barricaded ourselves in until police came and got us out."

    Witnesses reported hearing as few as five gunshots and as many as 25.

    "We heard pop, pop, pop -- someone came and said, 'Hurry,'" one witness said.

    The main location of the shooting happened at the Von Maur customer service desk.

    Westroads Mall will be closed Thursday as police continue their investigation.

    HAWKINS dropped out of Papillion-La Vista High School a couple of years ago, friends said. Recently, he had been arrested on suspicion of minor in possession of alcohol, had lost a job at McDonald's and had broken up with a girlfriend. He was living in a Bellevue home with the family of some friends.

    Debora MARUKA-KOVAC said she took HAWKINS in because he had emotional issues and she wanted to provide him a safe place to stay.

    "He was very troubled," MARUKA-KOVAC said on Wednesday night. "I had no idea this troubled. I just can't believe it. I just can't believe it. He's a friend of my son's from school. He's living at a couple of different places. We took him in. We had two boys. We thought: what was one more if we could help?"

    For more than three hours leading up to midnight Thursday, investigators took pictures and looked through every inch of her house at 4302 McDarty Drive.

    MARUKA-KOVAC said HAWKINS lived with her, her husband and their two sons. She said that the last time she saw him, she thought he was going to pick up his eyeglasses. The last time she talked to him, about 40 minutes before the shooting was reported to police, he told her he was sorry to be a burden and thanked her for taking him in. He also told her for the first time that he had been fired.

    "I tried to talk to him and say, 'Come on home. We'll work it out,'" MARUKA-KOVAC said.

    She said he told her it was too late, and that he'd left some notes in his room to explain why.

    "He wrote, 'I'm a piece of (deleted) and now I'm going to be famous,'" she said.

    MARUKA-KOVAC said she found the notes, called HAWKINS' mother and then the police. It wasn't long before reports of the shooting were everywhere.

    "I had a sick feeling when I heard about it," she said. "I can't believe he would go this far. He was a good-hearted kid. He was just going through some rough times."

    Two unmarked police cruisers arrived at HAWKINS' mother's home in southern Bellevue, just north of Platteview Road, at about 10 p.m. Wednesday. Police said the AK-47 was owned by HAWKINS' stepfather.

    Multiple officers entered the empty home with guns drawn. They went in through the garage as they served a search warrant.

    Officers took multiple items from the home as evidence, including a rifle, a box used to carry ammunition, two computers and other boxes.

    ~ ~ ~ ~

    Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil
    Council Bluffs, Pottawattamie County, Iowa
    December 07, 2007
    by Dennis Friend, staff writer

    Former S.A., Shenanadoah teacher Wilson still hospitalized

    Dr. Joseph STOTHERT responded to a trauma page at the Nebraska Medical Center Wednesday. Someone with an assault rifle had shot up Von Maur at the Westroads shopping mall in Omaha.

    Fred WILSON was one of the injured, and he was seriously injured. STOTHERT said the 61-year-old retired English teacher had been shot in the upper chest and shoulder. WILSON was working at Von Maur when the gunman walked into the store and opened fire.

    "The wound to his right arm had blown out a fair number of blood vessels," STOTHERT recounted. "He had bled out (lost all his blood) and had no discernible pulse when he arrived at the hospital."

    WILSON came out of nearly six hours of surgery in critical condition but was upgraded to serious condition Thursday.

    "We stabilized him," said Stothert. "We reconstructed the blood vessels, nerves and bone to his right shoulder. He still has his arm. He may have significant disability, but we saved his life."

    WILSON'S niece, Jane DeGRADO-CONFORTI, and his cousin, Virginia BENNETT, agreed they had a lot to be grateful for. At a hospital news conference Thursday afternoon, they thanked everyone involved in his medical treatment.

    WILSON was on a ventilator as of Thursday afternoon, BENNETT said, so he could not speak, but "he seems to know what happened." Only immediate family members are allowed to visit right now.

    STOTHERT said it's too soon to know how well WILSON will fare. There's a risk of infection, and more surgeries will be needed to "repair messed-up tissue." However, the breathing tube could be removed in a few days; and he could leave the hospital in a couple of weeks, if all goes well.

    Both DeGRADO-CONFORTI and BENNETT said they took a flight to Omaha from Des Moines as soon as they got word of the shooting, because it was important to be there for WILSON.

    "He has affected many lives," said DeGRADO-CONFORTI. "He's such an energetic, loving, passionate person."

    She said he has enjoyed his years as a teacher and at Von Maur, which she described as his "second career" after he retired from teaching.

    He loved his work at Von Maur, never missing a day in 10 years, said BENNETT, who added, "I worry about his emotional well being, but he's a man of strength and faith."

    Those who know WILSON have consistently characterized him as a gentle, compassionate, kind, hard-working and popular man. His relatives described the 1964 high school graduate as a creative and humorous man of deep loyalties. He taught English and speech for years and directed school theatrical productions before retirement.

    Candy NARMI said the glowing descriptions are accurate.

    "I worked the concession stand with him when he was at St. Albert," she said. He taught speech and drama at the school in Council Bluffs from 1990 to 1998.

    "He had a big, deep, baritone voice and would announce the football and baseball games for the school," she said. "We played Louis Armstrong's song, 'Wonderful World,' before each baseball game."

    She also joked about WILSON'S spare frame and small stature, saying she has seen him on occasion since he left the school.

    "He is a little guy with no extra weight to lose," she said. "But he is always so courteous and treats everyone with respect. He's just a very tender guy."

    Her daughter, Ann NARMI, is a doctor at Creighton University Medical Center. She went to St. Albert when WILSON taught there, and she liked him.

    "She was working Wednesday night," said Candy NARMI. "She wondered if Mr. WILSON was OK. Then we heard his name on the news and thought, 'Oh, my gosh.' What a shock."

    Jonna ANDERSEN, principal at St. Albert Junior and Senior High School, said Wednesday and Thursday were "kind of tough days for us. Some people here considered him a good friend, so it's very hard on the faculty and staff."

    ANDERSEN said WILSON was the type of guy whom everybody liked, and called him "a true gentleman."

    The school offered a moment of silence and a prayer for WILSON "and for all the victims" at 2:20 Thursday afternoon.

    WILSON taught at Shenandoah High School in the 1980s, and Bill OVERBEY of Shenandoah remembered him as "a very good director." OVERBEY recalled that Wilson directed one play that dealt with the hearing impaired. WILSON taught the performers sign language, and the play won a national award.

    "A group of students from the Iowa School for the Deaf came to watch the play, and one of their instructors was going to interpret," OVERBEY recalled. "It wasn't long into the play when the interpreter sat down, because the Shenandoah students were doing such a great job interpreting."

    "Fred had a passion for his work," said Julia Gee DYCHE, a Shenandoah art instructor who worked with WILSON. "He earned the students' respect, and they always wanted to do their best for him."

    Council Bluffs resident and Support Our Local Animal Shelter president Mary JONES said she frequently spoke with WILSON - who owned an 8-year-old cat named "Bailey" - on her many excursions to Von Maur.

    "My first thought was Fred, especially in that department," she said. "I just hope and pray he will be OK. Bad things aren't supposed to happen to good people."

    ~ ~ ~ ~

    KETV-7 ABC, Omaha, Nebraska
    December 10, 2007

    Injured Victim Recounts Moments After Shooting
    Fred Wilson Recovering At Nebraska Medical Center

    OMAHA, Neb. -- A shooting victim remembers every moment of the Von Maur shooting, he said on Monday as his recovery continued at the Nebraska Medical Center.

    With no discernable pulse and massive blood loss, Fred WILSON, 61, was near death when he was transported to the medical center on Wednesday, doctors at the Nebraska Medical Center said.

    WILSON told NMC staff that he does remember the day of the Von Maur shooting and being shot. He shared what he remembers on Monday morning.

    "The whole time I was lying there, I never lost consciousness. I felt woozy like I might faint," WILSON said in a statement released to the media. "I had no idea how bad I was. I had no idea how much blood I had lost. I have been told by doctors that it was a good thing I was lying on my arm to put pressure on my wound."

    Last week, family said WILSON loves his second career in customer service at Von Maur. He retired several years ago from teaching in Iowa.

    He said he remembers trying to get paramedics' attention.

    "I remember calling out, 'Help me. Somebody help us.' Now that I think about it, I probably should have been quiet because I had no idea where the shooter was at that time. I was so glad when the police and medical crews arrived at the store. I wanted to be in somebody's care. I closed my eyes after the rescue crews arrived, knowing they would need to take me down three flights in the elevator and transport me in the ambulance. I just wanted to be at the hospital," WILSON'S statement said.

    WILSON said he is overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from people in the community including all of his former students and his Von Maur customers.

    WILSON was in fair condition on Monday. He was removed from the ventilator late Friday afternoon.

    Doctors said he is resting and is working to build up an appetite again. He is not in a lot of pain, but does not have a lot of feeling in his right arm -- the one that was injured in the shooting.

    Despite everything that happened, his spirits are good, doctors reported. His family members said his personality is back.

    WILSON said the most difficult thing for him is dealing with the loss of some loved ones who were friends and co-workers.

    WILSON graduated from Monroe High School in Monroe, Iowa, in 1964. He was a longtime English and speech teacher before retiring about 10 years ago.

    ~ ~ ~ ~

    KETV-7 ABC, Omaha, Nebraska
    December 13, 2007

    Shooting Victims Remain In Hospitals
    Wilson, Oldham Still Recovering From Wounds

    OMAHA, Neb. -- Two victims who were shot and wounded last week at Westroads Mall remained in hospitals on Thursday.

    Fred WILSON, 61, is in fair condition at the Nebraska Medical Center, where doctors said they expect him to make a strong recovery.

    WILSON was a customer service manager at Von Maur.

    Doctors said he arrived at the hospital last week with no discernable pulse and massive blood loss. He has an injury to his arm.

    Earlier this week, a statement released by the hospital said WILSON remembers the shooting.

    "The whole time I was lying there, I never lost consciousness. I felt woozy like I might faint," WILSON said in a statement released to the media. "I had no idea how bad I was. I had no idea how much blood I had lost. I have been told by doctors that it was a good thing I was lying on my arm to put pressure on my wound."

    Also on Thursday, Micky OLDHAM, 65, was listed in serious condition at Creighton University Medical Center. Her condition has not changed this week.

    ~ ~ ~ ~

    KETV-7 ABC, Omaha, Nebraska
    December 18, 2007

    Wilson Released From Hospital
    Wilson Forgives Hawkins, Praises Rescuers

    OMAHA, Neb. -- Fred WILSON was released from the Nebraska Medical Center at 11 a.m. Thursday, the hospital said.

    On Wednesday, WILSON said he feels great and very blessed two weeks after he was shot inside the Von Maur at Westroads Mall, and he said he has no anger toward his shooter.

    With no discernable pulse and massive blood loss, WILSON, 61, was near death when he was transported to the medical center after the shootings. Wilson told Nebraska Medical Center staff in the days following that he remembers the day of the Von Maur shooting and being shot. He said he never lost consciousness and had no idea how badly he was hurt until later.

    "I never lost consciousness. I just closed my eyes to be taken down three different floors. I was aware . . . of being put into the ambulance and being driven away," WILSON said. "I was scared. I was frightened. There was a bit of an unreality about it. There still is."

    WILSON said he remembers hearing people yell for help after the shooting. He said he saw the gunman walking toward the customer service department, and he thinks he saw the gun.

    WILSON extended his condolences to families of the dead and thanked Omaha police and his doctors. He praised Omaha for the way it reacted to the deaths of eight innocent people at the hands of Robert HAWKINS, 19, who ultimately turned the gun on himself.

    WILSON said he first heard popping and thought someone had dropped glasswares, but soon he knew it was gunfire. Then, he said, everyone tried to take shelter. He said he'd always felt safer on the third floor, but within seconds, he saw a young man walking toward customer service. He said he was shot in the back.

    "The fact that the store is opening tomorrow I found quite, quite acceptable. I had mixed thoughts about what would be the right time to open. Wednesday, Jan. 2 -- new year, a Wednesday. (But) tomorrow is the right time. Von Maur is in the retail business. (We) should link to the holiday," WILSON said.

    There will be a brief public ceremony at 8 p.m. Wednesday outside the south entrance to the store.

    Westroads managers said on Tuesday that the public will not take part in removing the memorials. Westroads said its staff will handle that and then turn the material over to the Douglas County Historical Society for preservation.

    Von Maur said on Monday morning that it will reopen its Omaha store at 10 a.m. Thursday. Von Maur said it will hold a brief ceremony in memory of those killed and hurt during the shooting before the store reopens near the store's interior mall entrance.

    WILSON graduated from Monroe High School in Monroe, Iowa, in 1964. He was a longtime English and speech teacher before retiring about 10 years ago.

    He said he finds it amazing that he was so critically injured and was rescued and saved by paramedics and doctors.

    "It's unbelievable to me that two weeks ago at this time, the incident had not even happened, and I've gone from near death to rallying," WILSON said.

    WILSON said he has no anger toward HAWKINS.

    "He needed help. He needed attention, and he didn't get attention like I got attention. I have no anger whatsoever," WILSON said.

    WILSON said he was near Beverly FLYNN, a seasonal gift wrapper who did not survive the shooting.

    "The elegance, beauty and capability of our new store manager -- Maggie WEBB," WILSON said, recounting his relationship with each of the dead. "Angie SCHUSTER: I was always a little jealous of her ability to keep her troops in line."

    He said Janet JORGENSEN was a top seller in the company.

    Wilson broke down talking about Dianne TRENT, who he called a dear friend. He said Gary JOY was always around to help.

    "You didn't have to ask twice when you asked Gary," WILSON said.

    Gary SCHARF and John McDONALD were shopping at Von Maur when they were fatally shot.

    WILSON said he wants to be a better person who appreciates life more in light of the incident and his injuries. He said his family has rallied around him and reminded him of the importance of family.

    "It's amazing, the impact we have on one another, and we don't realize it until something like this happens," WILSON said. "It's like I have a second chance."

    WILSON'S doctor, Dr. Joseph STOTHERT, said he applauds his patient for forgiving HAWKINS, but he hopes that the incident makes the state re-examine its mental health system and its gun laws.

    "The faster the bullet is going, the more damage it does," Stothert said of the AK-47 Hawkins used on Wilson and the others. "Fred was extremely lucky we were able to resuscitate him. But maybe it wasn't just us. Maybe it was somebody else."

    STOTHERT said his patient had lost nearly all of his blood volume when he arrived in the emergency room.

    WILSON said this will be a special holiday season for him as he celebrates life and family.

    ~ ~ ~ ~

    Fred Wilson Recovery Blog
    January 29, 2008

    Last Friday afternoon Fred received an award from the students at Westside High School in Omaha. Fred was asked to accept the "The Living Martin Luther KING'S Dream Award" – given to someone in the community who exemplifies the teachings of Dr. KING. Fred accepted the award in memory and in honor of those who died on December 5, 2007.

    On Saturday, Fred made his first visit back to Von Maur. He was over-whelmed by the out-pouring of support from co-workers and customers. The kind words and hugs provided some much needed encouragement as Fred continues his rehabilitation.

    ~ ~ ~ ~

    KPTM-FOX-42, Omaha, Nebraska
    July 17, 2008

    Fred Wilson Says Returning to Von Maur Hasn't Been Hard

    OMAHA (KPTM) - It took six months for one Von Maur employee to get back to work. The December 5th shooting left Fred WILSON in the hospital for a month followed by on-going rehab.

    His right arm is still in a brace but that didn't slow him down. Fred WILSON says, "It was not hard to come back."

    Six months after the Von Maur shooting Fred Wilson returned to the aisles where it happened. WILSON says, "I came back like I was just gone for a weekend, I remembered my employee number and locker number."

    But there was one thing he forgot he still had in his locker. "Wednesday December 5th, Omaha World Herald, the newspaper I had planned to take with me when I went to lunch later in the afternoon on the Wednesday," WILSON says.

    He keeps it as a reminder. "I'm always aware that something like December 5th can happen at anytime."

    That's the reason WILSON says he came back to work. Even with his arm in what could be a permanent brace, WILSON wants to prove the tragedy won't stop him from living. Especially with the support employees and customers have showed him.

    "The reception from Von Maur customers has been overwhelming." Fred WILSON says the shooting has kind of been a blessing in disguise. It's brought him and his family closer together.

    He also says he's forgiven the shooter.

    WILSON says it's a message he'll continue to spread. In fact, he'll speak about forgiveness at a conference Friday morning.

    ~ ~ ~ ~

    KETV-7 ABC, Omaha, Nebraska
    December 04, 2008

    Von Maur Shooting Survivor Shares Lesson

    OMAHA, Neb. -- A man who was shot and survived the Von Maur shooting rampage last year passed along the message of survival to students.

    Former St. Albert teacher Fred WILSON taught at the Council Bluffs school for eight years. His lessons this last year have taken on an aura of perseverance and endurance amid difficulty.

    WILSON was working in the customer service department at Von Maur on December 5, 2007. He was helping wrap packages for customers when Robert HAWKINS walked into the store and opened fire. WILSON was hit in the shoulder and lost most of his blood.

    "We are faced with the never-ending choice to become the wound or to heal," he told his class.

    One of the students, Jake ANDERSON, said WILSON has taught them how to deal with forgiveness. Another student, Emily GORMAN, said WILSON'S survival was an inspiration.

    "It blew my mind. I thought it was incredible how he was able to make it through something like that," she said.

    Student Tyler HAUG said WILSON'S forgiveness was "powerful."

    ~ ~ ~ ~

    Metro Magazine, Omaha, Nebraska
    August, 2009

    "And Forgive Those Who . . ."
    An Interview with Fred Wilson
    by Susan Kuhlmann

    Refusing to be made a victim, Fred WILSON, Von Maur shooting survivor, has become an inspirational model of grace and forgiveness.

    You may not know him. His name may not be familiar, but Fred WILSON'S story is a remarkable one. Fred WILSON is the survivor who was severely injured in the Von Maur shooting of December 2007. His story is miraculous in and of itself; however, his reaction and attitude towards the situation is legendary. Forever changed was Wilson’s life in a single brief moment by a single act of a troubled young man. But instead of responding with anger and bitterness, Fred Wilson expressed a prevailing forgiveness. WILSON vividly recalls the details of that day – how he’d made calls to his church; planned to pick up books at Borders the next day; leaving the house and saying to his cat, "I love you Bailey, be a good kitty"; and thanking and asking God to take care of him.

    About an hour into his shift as a Von Maur customer service supervisor, WILSON stepped out of his department to visit with the floor manager when they suddenly heard the sound of gunfire. WILSON remembers, "If I had it to do over, I'd have dropped to the floor and flipped a light switch." However, he returned to his department and concealed himself behind a counter. When he looked up, Wilson saw a young man walking in his direction. "For a moment I wondered why he wasn't hiding. Then I realized he was the shooter."

    With that realization, he decided to move hiding positions, and stood for a brief second. In that moment, WILSON was shot in the upper arm, and immediately slumped to the floor where he remained until the shooting stopped. Once the paramedics arrived, he said, "it was in God's hands." He remembers being put on a cart, noticing the sunny day as he was being rushed to the ambulance, and the subsequent 60-block trip to UNMC. By the time they reached the hospital, Fred WILSON had lost so much of his blood that there was almost none left. His family in the Ames/Newton Iowa area had heard the news happening in Omaha, and learned a man in the Von Maur customer service department had been shot. To which WILSON adds, "They made their way to Omaha, not knowing if I was dead or alive."

    WILSON was surrounded by family when he awoke in the ICU two days later. He was told that eight people, six of whom were colleagues, had been killed. Four days later, he was moved to a regular room, but hospital personnel kept him "hidden away". On December 19th, WILSON and his doctor held a press conference. WILSON recalls, "I went with no notes. I wanted to speak from my heart, hopefully with my brain engaged."

    Rather than harboring bad thoughts, WILSON'S heart was filled with an abounding forgiveness. When asked if he held any anger or hostility toward the shooter, WILSON answered: "Absolutely not. I think when anyone resorts to something like that – carrying a gun into a store and lashing out at people -- it is a sign of a trouble life; a troubled soul."

    WILSON was pleased that his answer was so well received, and had a positive, soothing impact on the community. "So often people get angry when they are victims," he said.

    After two weeks at UNMC, WILSON spent two more weeks at Immanuel Medical Center. He received outpatient occupational and physical therapy. Now, he goes for two hours each week, and is currently awaiting another surgery on his wrist - to hopefully result in some use of his right arm.

    WILSON'S reaction is central to his character. His innate feelings of compassion and forgiveness have only intensified. During his years as a teacher, he thought it was important to make everyone feel validated and acknowledged. WILSON believes, "We're all on this journey together and we need to take care of one another." He credits his parents, grandparents and Methodist upbringing for nurturing that spirit. He spends time each morning doing some religious reading, saying, "that sets the tone for the day."

    WILSON'S faith has always been an integral part of his life, and remarks, "You don't have to be in church every Sunday morning but it helps," and describes church, "like a calm in the storm." He notes that there is a lot of turmoil in the day-to-day, but "for one hour you can be surrounded by solace. That helps me get through the week."

    As a child, WILSON suffered with severe asthma. In third grade, WILSON was admitted to the hospital, and had to stay there for much of the year. He was confined to an oxygen tent in his room, which was difficult for him. However despite his frailties, WILSON worked hard to be accepted. "Maybe I have that compassion for others, having needed it myself." He indicates, "We are all very much alike and we need to be helping one another."

    His brush with death made WILSON acutely aware of life's value. "We need to make sure everything is right with our relationships. Family was important to me before, but it is even more so now." Since the shooting, WILSON has had three grand nieces and nephews born. "They will always know me as Uncle Fred with a bad right arm, but that's okay."

    "I'm so very blessed to still be able to have the opportunity to live my days and see the seasons and holidays. Not one day goes by without my saying 'Thank you God, thank you Jesus'; Eight people died and I was blessed to live."

    He similarly understands that life is fragile. "We are all mortals and each and everyone will die someday. We don't know how long we're given. We just need to cherish our moments. We assume as we step into our days thinking that we’ll be fine, but people have heart attacks, falls or traffic accidents."

    While WILSON'S experience has made him more appreciative and careful, it has not made him fearful. He returned to his job at Von Maur where he walks over same spot where he once lay bleeding. He mentions, "I just don't think much about it. I focus on what needs to be done."

    When asked what advice he would give to those seeking a similarly positive attitude, WILSON said it is important to see ourselves in others, and expresses, "We need to be caring and forgiving."

    Since February 2008, WILSON has been giving speeches about his experience. "I never expected to do that, but it just developed," he observes. "I try to be present to the media when asked because there was a lot of coverage of the shooting. I felt personal responsibility because I lived. I could have been shot in the head."

    In sharing his story, WILSON focuses on forgiveness and importance of time. "We don't have a guarantee of tomorrow. We do have today so we've got our work cut out for us if we're going to take care of business."

    He also pays homage to those who died. "I have great respect for the eight families who lost loved ones. I end by speaking of those eight because they were lovely human beings. We miss them and will never forget them."

    As a member of First United Methodist Church, WILSON said many Sundays are emotional for him since he realizes that the setting could have been his funeral. With this thought he responds, "I am so glad God saw more time for me."

      Fred WILSON, 61, was born and raised in Monroe, IA and attended Central College in Pella, IA. He is a retired school teacher who taught English, speech and theatre at St. Albert High School in Council Bluffs, IA and also at schools in Clear Lake and Shenandoah, Iowa. Fred loves his second career as a Customer Service Manager at Von Maur, speaking passionately about his love for the Von Maur company whenever he is asked about his life. He never missed a day of work during his 10 years with Von Maur. Among his many interests and hobbies, he loves University of Nebraska Football, his cat Bailey, Oprah, classical music, and spending time with his family and friends.
    ~ fredwilson.wordpress.com

    Transcriptions by Sharon R. Becker, May of 2011



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