U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- Armed citizens must be prepared to defend themselves at any moment. That moment can be as common as your neighbor scaring away an intruder who broke through her back door last night. Sometimes, it is as significant as stopping mass murder. You might not remember every incident where an ordinary armed citizen took extraordinary action. The mainstream media certainly forgets to mention it. We remember how Nick Meli saved lives in Portland, Oregon.
December 11th, 2012 | Portland, Oregon
This day started as an ordinary Tuesday. Nick Meli went to meet his girlfriend. They met at a nearby mall. This was a large building with over 7-thousand parking places and a six-story parking structure. It was two weeks before Christmas and the two-story mall was bustling with shoppers. The mall is on the south side of Portland, and by 3:30 in the afternoon the mall had thousands of shoppers and store staff inside. Meli, his girlfriend, and her child were sitting near the food court inside the mall.
Meli was a concealed carry holder. He used to work as a security guard in this mall. He worked elsewhere at the time, but he knew that the mall had a posted policy asking customers to be disarmed. He also knew that the management policy did not have the force of law. Meli was carrying his Glock 22 concealed that afternoon. Meli said he carried everywhere he went.
An ordinary day was about to turn extraordinary. A disturbed young man, Jacob Roberts, broke up with his girlfriend a few weeks ago. He quit his job and sold his belongings. He told friends he was moving from Oregon to Hawaii. He didn’t move. Instead, he stole an AR rifle from a friend, bought magazines, and bought ammunition for the AR.
Roberts met with friends to smoke marijuana twice that day. He then drove to the mall. There in the mall parking lot, Roberts pulled on a black hoodie and a white plastic mask that covered the front of his face. He grabbed several loaded magazines and walked into the mall with the AR loaded and at his side.
Jacob Roberts walked through one of the large department stores and into the central corridor of the mall. He shot and killed two people, shooting one person in the back and another in the head. Roberts wounded a young woman who then ran to safety. The murderer fired 16 shots at this point. People were running everywhere to escape.
Nick Meli heard the rifle shots. He couldn’t believe what he heard, but he told his girlfriend to grab her child and run. She ran into one of the stores and away from the sound of gunfire coming from the central corridor of the mall. Meli moved into the corridor and took cover behind a concrete column.
Meli saw the attacker working the charging handle of his AR. The attacker had his head down so Meli drew his concealed sidearm. Meli said he had his sights aimed at the attacker’s head and that he had tunnel vision to anything else. Despite that narrow field of vision, Meli noticed movement in a store directly across the mall and in like with the attacker. Meli did not take his shot because he feared a missed shot or a shoot-through would hit an innocent person.
The attacker, Jacob Roberts, raised his head and looked around the mall. He saw Meli with his gun pointed at him. Looking down the barrel of a gun, the attacker ducked and ran. He stopped working to clear the jam in his rifle and retreated. The attacker opened a service door and moved down one of the utility hallways that run behind the stores. He then went down a stairway and passed a store clerk carrying boxes and heading the other way. Roberts then took his own life by shooting himself with his rifle.
Meli saw the attacker run and Meli ran the other way. He stayed at the back of a jewelry store until he saw a uniformed police officer carrying a rifle. Meli waved the policeman over and said he had information about the attacker. The policeman ordered Meli to holster his firearm. Meli did so. He then gave the officer a description of the attacker and the direction the attacker ran. The policeman ordered Meli to leave the mall.
We know that the victim wounded by the attacker could run out of the mall before she collapsed. She received treatment quickly, and she recovered. We don’t know what would have happened if Meli pressed the trigger. We don’t know what would have happened if Nick Meli wasn’t at the mall that afternoon. We know the murderer was working to clear a jam when he saw Meli’s gun pointed at him. We know the attacker eventually cleared the malfunction because he later used that rifle to take his own life. We know that no additional victims were shot after the attacker retreated in the face of an armed defender.
The good news is that mass murderers don’t attack every mall at Christmas. We know that mass murderers deliberately look for unarmed victims in “gun-free” zones. We know that the FBI classified Nick Meli as a “security guard” rather than an armed civilian. In theory, this wasn’t a mass murder since only two victims were killed. We’re inclined to think that the attack at the Clackamas Mall was an unusual event, but it might not be.
When we exclude gun free zones, we see that armed citizens stop attempted mass murders in about half of the cases. Using the FBI’s own statistics, we know that armed citizens are remarkably effective since they stop or significantly hinder mass murderers about 94 percent of the time when armed defenders choose to act. That is important.
Thank goodness someone like you was there to stop mass murder this day near Portland, Oregon.
- Overview Wikipedia
- Overview Oregon Live
- Interview with Meli
- Mall Code of Conduct
- Police report of Meli contact
- FBI skewed statistics
- Crime Prevention Research Center
This story is part of a series. Dr. John R. Lott Jr. put together a list of mass murders that were stopped by armed citizens. We’ll explore another event in the next few weeks here at Ammoland Shooting Sports News.
About Rob Morse
Rob Morse writes about gun rights at Ammoland, Clash Daily, Second Call Defense, and on his SlowFacts blog. He hosts the Self Defense Gun Stories Podcast and co-hosts the Polite Society Podcast. Rob was an NRA pistol instructor and combat handgun competitor.