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Email keeps Sandy woman from reaching chaos

Juli Churchill recalls scene she witnessed during Clackamas shooting


Juli Churchill of Sandy was walking through a clothing store at the Clackamas Town Center mall when she heard a faint rustle that was growing louder by the second. She looked up and in the distance saw a stampede of shoppers — not screaming — sprinting in her direction.

When the crowd was within shouting distance, Churchill yelled out, “Is this a flash mob?”

“No, there’s a shooter in the mall,” one person cried.

“Blood, people are dead,” yelled another. “Run!”

So Churchill did.

She turned around and sprinted out of the store and into the parking lot, running from a gunman who opened fire last Tuesday in the mall’s food court, killing two adults, himself, and wounding a teenage girl.

Churchill was only a few steps into the mall when shots rang out. But it was pure luck that delayed her from reaching the shooting scene.

Churchill pulled into the mall’s parking lot at 3:15 p.m., 15 minutes before the first 9-1-1 call was made. She gathered her belongings and prepared to step out of her car, only to remember an email she forgot to respond to earlier in the day.

Churchill grabbed her phone and started typing.

“Kris, sorry,” she wrote. “Left house without checking mail. Can send tonight if not too late! My bad! Be home in couple hours, I hope!!”

“I don’t know what possessed me to respond at that time,” she said, “It just dawned on me that I forgot.”

She hit “send” at 3:27 and started walking through the parking lot and toward the mall. She was heading to the Macy’s clothing store, directly across from the food court where the shooting took place.

Instead, Churchill had just walked through the mall doors when people started running her way.

But never did she think she was in danger. This didn’t seem like a crowd running for its life.

“It was so surreal because it was so quiet,” she said.

Churchill followed the crowd into the parking lot, stopping shoppers about to go inside and to tell them to turn around and get in their cars right away.

Churchill got in her car and drove to a nearby craft store just as police began to arrive at the mall. She listened to a radio inside the store, still in the dark about the terror that just been unleased.

Others soon congregated at the store, as well.

Inside, were two women, one visibly shaking from seeing the killer fire his weapon upon unsuspecting shoppers.

“We were all mostly in shock,” Churchill said.

That evening after returning home, Churchill reflected on the day and the email that might have saved her life.

“That email saved me from getting too far into the mall,” she said.