Suspect Wanted To Be 'Heard'

In this police booking photo provided by the Pierce Co. (Wash.) Sheriff's Dept., Dominick Maldonado is shown. Maldonado is accused of going on a shooting spree at the Tacoma Mall that wounded six people and then taking hostages for several hours Sunday, Nov. 20, 2005 in Tacoma, Wash.
After hours as a hostage in a suburban shopping mall, Jon Black saw the distraught young gunman toying with the clip of his assault rifle.

"I was thinking, OK, he's either flipped, or we're getting out of here," Black recalled Monday.

Then the gunman, with the look of "a scared kid," removed the clip and emptied the chamber. Black, 32, and another hostage stepped in to end the ordeal.

"He had tears in his eyes when we were taking the weapons away from him and he was in tears as we were taking him out," said Black, an active duty Army soldier.

It was the end of a shooting rampage that erupted Sunday afternoon during a busy shopping weekend at the Tacoma Mall, leaving six people wounded, one critically.

Dominick Sergio Maldonado, 20, of Tacoma, pleaded innocent Monday to charges of first-degree assault, kidnapping and unlawful firearm possession. He was ordered held on $2 million bail.

Police said they got a call just before the shootings erupted, with the caller saying he was armed with two assault weapons and was about to start firing. When the dispatcher asked the man where he was, he replied, "Just follow the screams," court documents said.

Maldonado told detectives he had been humiliated during a troubled childhood and that recent problems made him want to be "heard," according to the court papers. A text message to his ex-girlfriend minutes before the rampage said he was about to show the world his anger, the woman said.

Plans for making bombs and the poison ricin were later found in Maldonado's bedroom, prosecutors said.

The documents also said Maldonado denied intending to actually shoot anyone, but was trying to draw media attention. Deputy Prosecutor Phil Sorensen said he doubted that story.

"I'm surprised we're not looking at multiple fatalities," Sorensen said after Monday's hearing. "I don't believe he was trying to wing anybody."

Defense lawyer Sverre Staurset said he was eager to find out what drove Maldonado to go to the mall with guns.

"The thing to try to figure out here is, how does an otherwise attractive young man, 20 years old, end up on a Sunday in a mall with a gun? Something like this has got to have a genesis," Staurset said.