An off-duty Ogden police officer is being hailed as a hero for halting a shooting rampage that officials say could have hurt more than the nine people who were shot in the Trolley Square mall Monday night.
Officer Kenneth Hammond said he was acting on pure police instinct - to protect. Five people were killed before the gunman was shot. He doesn't believe that what he did was heroic, but it was an obligation.
"I just happened to be the one who was there," he said at a 6 p.m. news conference today in Ogden. "I felt like I was there and I did what I needed to do."
Hammond said he and his pregnant wife had just finished an early Valentine's Day dinner at the Rodizio Grill, when he heard noise that he at first thought was construction going on in the mall. He left his wife to go and find out where the noise was coming from and then began to hear people screaming.
"You need to leave, go, call 911 and lock it down," Hammond said he told his wife as he sent her back to the restaurant for safety.
Hammond added that he went from "romantic-date mode to I-need-to-protect mode."
Serita Hammond, a police dispatcher, said she called 911 mostly "to tell them he was out there and what he was wearing." When her phone didn't work, she borrowed one from a waiter to place the call.
Meanwhile, Hammond said, he was yelling out that he was a plain-clothes and off-duty Ogden police officer, not only to alert other shoppers, but to tell any arriving officers that he wasn't an additional threat.
After seeing "seriously injured people" on the lower level of the mall, Hammond said he looked up and saw the suspect.
"I can say that when I saw the suspect, no one else was hurt," he said. Hammond said he cornered the man inside a store and when he was joined by a Salt Lake City police officer, he began to fire at the suspect, identified as 18-year-old Sulejman Talovic.
After firing his last round, Hammond said he heard a session of rapid-fire, looked around the corner and saw glass from the store-front falling and he "knew the suspect was down."
"It's like it wasn't even real," Hammond said of the scene at the mall.