Girl witnesses gunman shoot woman, then 'aims toward me'

Girl witnesses gunman shoot woman, then 'aims toward me'

CLACKAMAS, Ore. – At the height of the terror of the deadly shooting at Clackamas Town Center Tuesday, a teenage girl just two weeks into her job inside the mall's food court, watched the shooter aim toward her, pull the trigger and miss.

Alina Pavlenko, 16, said it felt like the shooter was right in front of her even though he was maybe 100 feet away when he took aim.

She was totally exposed with really nowhere to hide at the cupcake kiosk she works at. And then when she realized the sound wasn't firecrackers going off, she remembered being the only one standing in the food court as the gunman tried but failed to hit her.

"I see this guy walking around with a mask shooting randomly at people. Then I hear screaming and I see him shooting this lady, pointing the gun all over the place. And then this lady falls down. I see her fall. That's when it freaked me out. I was like, 'Oh God, what am I supposed to do?' So I froze, and I'm just sitting there not knowing what to do," she said.

"He looks my direction, aims toward me and I guess he missed, and that's when I totally freaked out and thought this is time to hide. So I jumped under my seat, the only seat I had in front of me," she said, adding she felt "bad for people that did get hurt, families that lost other people, knowing that could have been me. But thank God it wasn't."

Pavlenko said that image of seeing a woman get shot is burned into her memory.

She was still in shock late Tuesday night when she was interviewed for this story. She said the emotions of the moment didn't fully hit her until she was running from the mall, unable to breathe. She was that scared.

Her friends and family are helping her work through the tragedy.

When the bullets started flying, other witnesses said things happened fast. With the sound carrying in the mall, they said it was hard to pinpoint where the shots were coming from. So many went into survival mode and hoped and prayed for the best.

And when the chaos converged on the mall, customers and employees went with their first instinct, hunkering down in back rooms or dropping to the floor.

"I was stocking up some cups in the front and I heard what I thought was balloon popping at first, but it just kept going. And I saw my employees just drop. So I dropped – it was gun shots," said Caitlyn Quist who works at Cinnabon. "We heard some people running and screaming so we were hiding in the back, but we didn't know what was going on, and we didn't want to look through windows or anything, but we heard some police yelling at one point. I assume they were trying to get the guy, but I had no idea what was going on. We were just hiding."

Jacob Rogers, manager at Champs, and another manager, closed the store's gate and moved people into a back room. They could see what was going on out front because of a camera installed there.

Police cleared the mall store by store and let people out in waves. Some people were in hiding for quite some time. Many people said they were texting with their loved ones, trying to get word out about how they were doing.