PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — His mother died before he was 3 years old, and he was estranged from the aunt who raised him. His dream of becoming a Marine was dashed by a broken foot, he hadn’t yet settled on a career path, and a new plan, to move to Hawaii, ended when he apparently missed his flight.
None of it, however, reveals a motive in Jacob Tyler Roberts’ decision to put on a hockey-style mask, walk into a suburban Portland mall and randomly shoot three strangers, killing two and wounding a third, before committing suicide.
In the days since Tuesday’s rampage, friends, relatives and neighbors have all said Roberts was a relaxed, friendly and outgoing guy. Police have yet to reveal if the young man known to all as Jake wrote a suicide note or left some hint of the violence he would unleash.
“Of everyone in my entire life, if I could put them on a list of how crazy they are, how likely they are to snap, I’d put him at the very bottom,” said Jaime Eheler, 26, the gunman’s close friend and roommate. “He’d be the very last person.”
The Clackamas County sheriff’s office said Roberts had several fully loaded magazines when he arrived at the mall as thousands did their Christmas shopping. Roberts parked his 1996 Volkswagen Jetta in front of the second-floor entrance to Macy’s. He then walked through the store into the mall and began firing randomly in the food court, authorities said.
He fatally shot Steven Mathew Forsyth, 45, and Cindy Ann Yuille, 54, the sheriff said. Kristina Shevchenko, 15, was wounded and in serious condition Thursday.
Eheler said her friend had a “weird look on his face” when he left their house.
“My living room is right by the front door. He was walking out (and) he gave me this look, and I asked him, ‘Hey, what’s up?’ And he said he’ll talk to me about it when he gets back,” she said, breaking down in tears.
Eheler said she later learned that Roberts had stopped at her brother Tyler’s home on the way to the mall. Tyler Eheler and Roberts had been best friends since high school, she said.
“He came in and hung out for a minute and told him that he had to go and that he didn’t want to,” Eheler said, adding that Roberts gave her brother a bracelet that he always wore, and hugged him.
Eheler said Roberts had recently quit his job at a Portland gyro shop, sold all of his belongings, and put his car up for sale on Craigslist in advance of his planned move to Hawaii. Roberts’ ex-girlfriend, Hannah Patricia Sansburn, told ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer” that he was supposed to catch a flight Saturday but he got drunk and missed it.
The owner of Big Bertha’s gyro shop threw a going-away party for him last week.
“His nickname there at the shop was ‘The Kid,’” said Thomas Illk, father of Tommy Illk, who owns the shop. “Tommy is just devastated. He was like a little brother to him.”
According to his Facebook page, Roberts’ friends were his family.
The identity of Roberts’ father is unknown, according to relatives and court records. His mother, Teresa Anne Roberts, died from cancer in February 1993. She had turned 22 on Dec. 10, 1992 — almost 20 years to the day before her 22-year-old son took his own life.
Tami Roberts, Roberts’ aunt, said she believes the timing was a coincidence and the shootings had nothing to do with the anniversary of her sister’s birth.
“Every day, his whole life, I was proud of him. I’m just not proud of him right now,” she said Thursday.
Tami Roberts became Roberts’ guardian when his mother died shortly before his third birthday. The two had a falling out when he turned 18, and had not spoken in four years.
Tami Roberts said she tried to contact her nephew many times but declined to say why he refused to speak with her and ultimately blocked her on Facebook.
Court documents show Tami Roberts misappropriated $18,000 that Jacob Roberts received in an inheritance from his grandmother when he was a young teen. She said that was not the reason for the estrangement.
Tami Roberts showed reporters numerous photos from happier times, including one showing the pair with matching tattoos. She said Roberts injured his foot in 2007 when he tried to jump over a Dumpster on a bicycle. The injury ended Jake’s hope of joining the Marines, and that made him “angry,” Tami Roberts said.
“Then he didn’t know what to do with his life,” she said.
The last time Tami Roberts saw her nephew was in a parking lot a few months ago.
“I was telling him how much I love him, how proud I am of him, and how much I miss him,” Tami Roberts said. “And then he took off. He just rode off on his bike. He didn’t even say anything to me, but I know he heard every word I said.”
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Tim Fought, Jonathan J. Cooper, Nigel Duara, and Sarah Skidmore in Portland, and Jeff Barnard in Grants Pass, Ore., along with researcher Rhonda Shafner.
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