DeEtta Barta has treated trauma victims before, but the intensive-care nurse wasn't prepared for the carnage she encountered when she stopped at a Utah shopping mall for dinner Monday night.
“We were sitting at a window table .... We heard one shot,” Barta recalled Tuesday in an interview on TODAY. “I thought it was a car backfiring, and then the shots kept coming. We looked out the window and saw a young man in a trench coat with a shotgun that he was pumping and firing as he was running toward the building.”
As the gunman fired his way through the mall, Barta encountered a young man in the parking lot. “He said, ‘He shot my father. My father went down,’ ” Barta told TODAY host Meredith Vieira. “He told me his name. I was assessing him .... I thought it was a superficial wound, but actually the bullet had lodged. You could see the bullet in his temple lobe. He was in shock.”
The gunman killed five people and wounded several others at the historic Trolley Square shopping mall in Salt Lake City. The rampage ended when the shooter was fatally shot by police.
‘Bodies laying on the ground’Barta and other eyewitnesses told TODAY that the gunman said nothing as he fired a shotgun indiscriminately.
"He just had a determination that he was going to take people out, and evidently he did,” said Barta.
Clifton Black said his group starting running for cover when they realized what was happening. “We were running .... We looked to our left and there was glass shattered all over the floor next to the escalators and maybe — it was so quick — there were maybe 10 bodies laying on the ground.”
“We saw a bunch of bodies heaped on the floor,” said Melinda Gurr, another witness. “There was glass everywhere. It was a pretty gory sight.”
Finally, police cornered the gunman in the rear of a children's clothing store. When he refused to comply with their demands to surrender, police opened fire, witnesses said.
“I heard the policemen yell ‘Drop your weapon! Police, drop your weapon!’ ” witness Matt Lund said. “And then we heard a lot of gunshots.”
Police said the shooter was an 18-year-old from the Salt Lake City area but did not immediately release his name. His motive was unknown.
— John Springer, contributor for TODAY, and news reports