In Portland, Oregon, that same rush for information had the mainstream media skip past the fact that a concealed carrier confronted an active shooter and caused him to abandon his plans, run for a service corridor and stairway and kill himself as these shooters typically do.
We saw the story, it's lack of coverage, and knew it was news that needed to get out. Obviously important for concealed carriers / gun owners, we knew the story demonstrated how these situations can be stopped quickly by a determined, well-practiced concealed carrier.
We spoke to Nick Meli, Casey, and Ashley late Sunday and got the full story direct from the people who were there... in that moment with the gunman still active and approaching. While plenty of people want to second guess, or make assumptions, we're here to bring the full story to light here and putting all facts on the table.
On Tuesday evening Casey and Ashley went to the mall with Casey's close friend Nick and Ashley's 4-month-old son Noah. Ashley's boyfriend (who is also Casey's brother) works at the mall and the group was waiting for him to get out of a meeting. They had been in the mall for a short while and were heading to the food court to get a bite to eat. Just as the group passed the Macy's Home Store and came to Morgan Jewelers three gunshots rang out.
What we now know was the beginning of gunman Jacob Tyler Roberts's shooting spree came as a complete shock to everyone. Nick, holding young Noah at the time, turned to Casey and said, "Are you serious?!?". Casey's simple answer? "Yes". As Ashley told us, Nick tossed Noah to her and drew his concealed carry weapon in a single motion.
Not believing the shots to be real Ashley wondered if it was possible the mall was doing active shooter training, something her boyfriend said they had done in the evenings before. Then a long series of 10-15 gunshots rang out. "Once I saw Casey under the jewelry counter and heard the other shots, I knew it was real," Ashley told us.
Holding young Noah, Ashley's first reaction was to turn her back to the gunfire and use her body to shield young Noah. Casey yelled at Ashley to get down so Ashley crawled under the jewelry counter, placing Noah between the two of them to keep him safe. As the girls took cover Nick, with his gun drawn, moved behind a pillar and looked towards the shots - and saw the gunmen moving towards them.
While keeping eyes on the gunman, Nick told the girls to find better cover - the counter they were under was just glass held aloft by metal legs.
Casey got to her feet and unlocked and opened the half door to get behind the store counter. She then told the others, "follow me". In the back area of the jewelry store the girls found a closet sized bathroom and Ashley, Noah, and Casey crammed in, along with four other people who had been trapped in the open. Once in the relative safety of the bathroom one of the women, a Morgan Jewelers employee, asked Casey why Nick had a gun. Casey's answer? "He works for a security company. He's one of the good guys".
That's when the girls realized Nick had not gone to cover with them and was still faced with the gunman... and that Ashley's boyfriend was somewhere in the mall as well - in his meeting. All the while, young Noah is crying. Knowing the gunman was still outside and not wanting to be found, Ashley started feeding Noah to keep him calm and keep him from making any noise.
Knowing the girls were more secure, Nick was now alone and the gunman was still approaching. Like most malls, Clackamas Town Center's second floor has walkways by the storefronts with an open middle area so that light gets through to the bottom floor. The gunman was across that opening from Nick and continued to approach. Nick noted that the gunman seemed unfamiliar with the rifle we now know was stolen. Instead of clearing a malfunction cleanly, the gunman was slapping the gun and pulling the charging handle with seemingly no plan in mind.
As the gunman came closer, he turned to cross a walkway bridging the open space and connecting the two sides of the mall so he could continue his rampage inside the large Macy's Home Store on the other side - right where Nick was standing. Nick lined put his front sight on the man's head and put his finger on the trigger. Nick has extensive firearms experience with both rifles and handguns, at the range of approximately 15-20 yards, this was a shot he knew he could make, and then... movement from behind the shooter, inside of Charlotte Russe.
As all firearms owners know, Colonel Jeff Coopers Rule #4 is to know your target and what is behind it. Now Nick knew for sure that, while he had a good target, what was behind it were innocent people who were terrified. He removed his finger from the trigger while keeping the gun on the gunman.
Then a dangerous confrontation got worse. Nick heard the distinctive sound of a malfunction being cleared in the rifle and saw the gunman reach for another magazine. As the gunman was inserting the fresh magazine, Nick quickly backed into the Macy's Home Store and took cover while keeping his eyes on the gunman. Despite being outgunned, Nick stayed in cover but visible to the gunman.
Knowing he had an armed person in the mall and that this was no longer his gun-free zone, the gunman avoided the Macy's Home Store and ended his rampage by fleeing to a service corridor and into the stairwell to the lower level. He then took his life, unbeknownst to everyone in the mall. "It seemed like forever but we actually heard the last shot the shooter put into himself," said Ashley. That single ominous shot after the deafening silence that covered the mall during the gunman's malfunction was replaced by Nick's familiar voice shouting, "It's me! It's me!" right before he opened the door.
Nick said nothing of his encounter, he just said he did not know where the shooter was and that they should all remain quiet. An elderly woman in the bathroom asked where her purse was as she was not feeling well and wanted one of her blood pressure pills. Nick retrieved her medicine, told them all to remain quiet and went back in front of the store in case the gunman returned.
Knowing nothing good would come from police seeing an armed man in the mall yet knowing he could not put his gun away without knowing the mall was secure, Nick did what every concealed carrier should know to do - he called the police. Nick told the 911 operator that he was in the Clackamas Town Center, that he was armed, and that he did not know where the gunman was at that time. Nick gave a description of himself to the police so they would know he was one of the good guys and would not engage on sight.
As police arrived, Nick went back and told the girls police were on scene but to stay in place. Nick holstered his weapon and began speaking with investigators and covering everything that happened - having definitive answers to much of the chaos and conflicting report. No, there was only one shooter. No, he was not white, he was Hispanic (Nick noticed that from a small gap of neck that was uncovered between the shirt and mask).
While it seemed like yet another eternity, police came and got the girls and led them out under an armed escort of seven officers. The police took them past the Macy's Home Store which was blocked off by officers and down a service corridor to the outside. Only later did Ashley and Casey realize they had walked past the staircase the gunman had retreated to before taking his own life.
Friday night, before the story of Nick's action had made it anywhere, Nick, Casey, Ashley, and Noah attended the vigil for Steve Forsyth and Cindy Ann Yuille the two victims killed at the very outset of the gunman's attack. While hundreds of people gathered by candlelight and sang songs in remembrance, none outside of the small group realized that Nick had stopped the gunman and cut his rampage short - saving the people inside the mall and our nation a much greater tragedy.
No recognition is exactly what Nick would like. He has eschewed interviews and plans to continue doing so simply because he did what he felt he had to. Nick doesn't feel he is a hero so Ashley gets the final word:
"What Nick did and the actions he took saved lives. Whether he shot or not, he changed the situation and he is the reason nobody else was shot"
For those out there that question Nick's actions - Nick wasn't reading words on a screen. He was faced with an active gunman who had already shot more than 20 rounds, two close friends with a small child to protect, shocked people in the mall, and it all happened in an instant. From the time the gunman entered the mall until the time he ended his life was almost 4 minutes. That's about half the time it took to read this article.
For more stories of the everyday heroes among us, take a look at the November Defensive Gun Use Report