OMAHA, Neb. – The mother of the young gunman who killed eight people at a busy department store earlier this month apologized Thursday for her son's crime and said she did her best raising him.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry," Maribel Rodriguez told ABC's "Good Morning America" when asked what she would say to the victims' families. "I'm deeply devastated with you."
Her son, Robert Hawkins, 19, fired more than 30 rounds inside the Von Maur store Dec. 5, striking 11 people. Six died where they fell, one died on the way to a hospital and another died at the hospital. Three other people were wounded, two seriously.
"If you want to hate Robert, then hate Robert. You don't need that pain," Rodriguez said. "You absolutely don't need that type of pain in your heart and mind. Because it destroys your soul."
Hawkins was a troubled teenager who spent four years in a series of treatment centers, group homes and foster care after threatening to kill his stepmother in 2002. He had recently broken up with a girlfriend and lost his job at a McDonald's.
"He was without hope. He was without faith. He was without courage," Rodriguez said. "Because you don't do that to other people. You just don't do that to other people."
She and Hawkins ate supper together at the house of her ex-husband — Hawkins' stepfather — the night before the shootings, Rodriguez said. The stepfather was vacationing in Thailand.
"When I came back to the house, there was this sense, there was this air that something was wrong," she said.
She and police have said Hawkins took the assault rifle he used in the shootings from his stepfather's closet.
Hawkins either was kicked out or left that home some time ago. At the time of the shootings at Westroads Mall, he was living with Debora Maruca-Kovac and her husband, whose sons were friends with Hawkins, Maruca-Kovac has said. He had lived there for a little more than a year.
When asked what people should think of her son, Rodriguez said: "I'm not perfect, I know that. But you tell me: What could I have done differently? I did my best."