'I live in horror': New records shed light on fatal Boise mall shooting, cite no motive

  • In US
  • 2022-09-23 10:00:00Z
  • By Idaho Statesman

"Shooter" was what she heard, a witness said, before she pulled her mother and 4-year-old daughter down to the ground at Macy's. Her mother still held the shoes she intended to buy when they began to run for their lives.

"My 4-year-old daughter still doesn't want to go to the mall because she is scared that the man will come and kill her," a mother of five wrote in a witness statement originally in Spanish. "I live in horror listening to my 4-year-old say this. Since that day, I can no longer live my life peacefully without being afraid."

Twenty-four minutes was all it took for carnage to unfold at the Boise Towne Square mall last October, when a shooter killed two and injured several more.

Police investigations into the matter detail the minute-by-minute events on the afternoon of Oct. 25, and how a chance encounter with 26-year-old security guard Jo Acker, a transgender woman, prompted a man to open fire on her. He then fired more bullets into a crowded shopping mall and killed a second person, Roberto Padilla Arguelles, a Latino man.

Police were at the scene of the crime in under 3 minutes.

Hundreds of pages of recently released documents obtained by the Idaho Statesman - including officer incident reports, investigative documents and witness statements - paint an image of the shooter, who investigators found was estranged from his family and had sent messages to relatives that had disturbed them. The shooter also had a YouTube channel, as previously reported by the Statesman, and was a strident proponent of open-carrying guns.

Bystanders hid in bathrooms, under tables and in racks of clothing. One woman was on the phone with her neighbor when she heard gunshots and hid. She saw Jacob Bergquist come over near where her and others were hiding and "look right at them" before shooting near them. "I am going to kill you all," she heard him say.

Bergquist shot himself in the head behind a dumpster near Dave and Buster's after being fired upon by police. This took place less than seven minutes after he began shooting in the mall, according to police.

Authorities said they found no motive in the killings and do not think he knew the victims. But his channel contained hateful comments and racial slurs about Hispanic groups, and in a phone call during the shooting spree his father recalled him saying the word "transgender."

Treasure Valley police also had contact with the shooter prior to that day, in documented reports where officers were suspicious about a man carrying a gun.

After fleeing the mall, the shooter encountered and fired upon police officers. A stray bullet of his struck a woman in the face as she drove on Milwaukee Street.

The 465-police report, released by the Boise Police Department nearly a year after the events, was first reported by the Idaho Press.

Sequence of events

Bergquist, 27, entered the Dillard's department store at the mall at 1:26 p.m. Oct. 25.

After walking around, he bought food at Sbarro, a pizzeria, and stayed in the mall's food court until 1:41 p.m., the report found.

He then walked through the mall and was contacted by Acker, who was wearing a bright yellow uniform. At 1:50 p.m. the two spoke for about 20 seconds "before Bergquist turned to walk away, then drew the gun from the holster on his left hip, turned and fired multiple times, striking and immediately killing (Acker)," the report said. He shot Acker four times.

Bergquist then fired into the mall, striking another victim's clothing. He went into Macy's and shot at Padilla Arguelles, 49, who was on an escalator. An officer later found what appeared to be gunshot wounds on that victim's lower right arm, right chest, two in his back shoulder, one on his right cheek and one on the upper right of his head. Arguelles was declared dead at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise around an hour after the shooting.

Bergquist "continued to fire his gun as he ran through the department store," including at three women hiding under a table, the report said. The women were injured but not hit by bullets.

After leaving the mall, Bergquist encountered two Boise police officers inside an unmarked vehicle and fired at them. Bullets hit the car, and one "broke apart" and hit an officer in the eye.

The woman driving on Milwaukee Street was hit by a bullet on the right side of her jaw, and the bullet continued through the driver's-side window. She survived.

Shortly afterward, Bergquist was seen by an officer sitting and wearing a hooded sweatshirt that was covered in blood, according to the report.

'I cannot erase the shooter's face from my mind'

The mother of five was at Macy's when she heard gunshots and saw a man in dark clothing shooting outside the store. She pulled her mother and daughter down on the floor. After hearing more gunshots, they ran.

Once at an emergency exit, the woman's mother still had the shoes she was going to buy.

"She asked me what she should do with them," the woman said, and she told her to leave the shoes inside. The three of them ran through the parking lot.

"We were very scared, crying because we did not know anything about my grandma," the woman said. "She was also with us at the mall but she was at a different store."

The woman stopped a couple in their car and asked for help, and were given a ride to their car.

After talking to a man by her car, the woman finally saw her 81-year-old grandmother walking through the parking lot.

"It was a very, very horrible experience; it is not the same to see a shooting happen on television or for someone to tell you there was a shooting," she said, noting she has trouble sleeping. "I cannot erase the shooter's face from my mind. I feel the sound of the bullets in my ears."

'Strange and delusional' text messages

Police identified Bergquist as the "lone suspect" in the mall shooting.

About 37 minutes after he shot himself, Ada County Dispatch received a call from a man believed to be his father who wanted to check on him. The man, whose name is redacted, noted that Bergquist had many guns.

At 1:51 p.m., seconds after Bergquist shot Acker, the man received a call from him, in which Bergquist stated he "had just killed or shot a lot of people."

Bergquist told the man that "he and the family were to blame for what happened." Bergquist was "breathing heavily and was mumbling," and the man "recalled Jacob saying the word 'transgender' during this call."

Before hanging up, Bergquist said, "I have to go kill myself now."

Investigators found that Bergquist was "very interested in firearms and open-carried a handgun on his left hip," the report said. But police said they did not find motivating documents.

"No evidence was found during the search of Bergquist's residence, cellphone and social media that would indicate he had any documented plans to carry out such an act of violence. There is nothing to suggest Bergquist knew any of the victims," the report said. "Security officers reported having contact with Bergquist in the past, but nothing had been documented."

Before the shooting, Bergquist had "made efforts" to reconcile with his family after being estranged, police interviews found. He told family he "felt he was going to die soon and believed the family had turned against him and was playing a joke on him."

One family member believed he worked at a dry cleaning business in Boise, and police said they believed he moved to Idaho at the end of 2020 or in early 2021.

A woman who lived in the same mobile home park as Bergquist told police he had lived there about six months and was always dressed in black and armed with a pistol. Occasionally he carried an AR-15 rifle, she said. Two days before the shooting, she said, she saw him pacing in front of her trailer, talking loudly and looking angry.

The day before the shooting, he sent "strange and delusional" texts to a family member, which "continued into the night" and the following day, up until a half-hour before the shooting, according to one interview.

After the shooting, the man who appeared to be Bergquist's father told police he was hopeful his son had been confused about what occurred.

"Jacob had not been in trouble for any violent crimes in the past and had moved to Idaho because he could legally open carry his firearms," the man told police.


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