Austin Patty, 20, who works at Macy's, said he saw a man in a white mask carrying a rifle and wearing a bulletproof vest. He heard the gunman say, "I am the shooter," as if announcing himself. A series of rapid-fire shots in short succession followed as Christmas music played. Patty said he ducked to the ground and then ran.
His Macy's co-worker, Pam Moore, told The Associated Press the gunman was short, with dark hair. Witnesses said the gunman started firing in the mall's food court, just outside Macy's.
Brance Wilson, the mall Santa, said he heard gunshots and dove for the floor. By the time he looked up, seconds later, everyone around him had cleared out. Merchandise was scattered in some stores as he made his way to the door.
"Santa will be back," Wilson said. "It's not going to keep Santa away from the mall."
Police identified the gunman but would not release his name or give any information on a possible motive. Officials said a woman was also shot and was in serious condition at a Portland hospital.
The mall is one of Portland's biggest and busiest, with 185 stores and a 20-screen movie theater. Sheriff's deputies said it would remain closed during the investigation, but it wasn't clear how long that would take.
Shaun Wik, 20, from Fairview, said he was Christmas shopping with his girlfriend and opened a fortune cookie at the food court. Inside was written "Live for today. Remember yesterday. Think of tomorrow."
As he read it, he heard three shots. He heard a man he believes was the gunman shout, "Get down!" but Wik and his girlfriend ran. He heard seven or eight more shots. He didn't turn around.
"If I had looked back, I might not be standing here," Wik said. "I might have been one of the ones who got hit."
Kira Rowland told KGW-TV that she was shopping at Macy's with her infant son when the shots started.
"All of a sudden you hear two shots, which sounded like balloons popping," Rowland told the station. "Everybody got on the ground. I grabbed the baby from the stroller and got on the ground."
Rowland said she heard people screaming and crying.
"I put the baby back in the stroller and ran," Rowland said.
Holli Bautista, 28, said she was shopping at Macy's for a Christmas dress for her daughter when she heard pops that sounded like firecrackers.
"I heard people running and screaming and saying `Get out, there's somebody shooting,"' she told the AP.
She said hundreds of shoppers and mall employees started running, and she and dozens of other people were trying to escape through a department store exit.
Tiffany Turgetto and her husband were leaving Macy's through the first floor when they heard gunshots coming from the second floor of the mall. They were able to quickly leave through a Barnes & Noble bookstore before the police arrived and locked down the mall.
"I had left my phone at home. I was telling people to call 911. Surprisingly, people are around me, no one was calling 911. I think people were in shock."