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Cop who saved shoppers from shooter: I am not a hero

Story Highlights

• NEW: Officer Ken Hammond: I did what any officer would do
• NEW: Hammond was on date with his wife when he heard gunfire
• Sulejmen Talovic, 18, walked into mall and shot five people dead, police said
• The teen's motive is unknown, authorities said
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OGDEN, Utah (CNN) -- A police officer hailed for helping stop a rampaging shooter who killed five people in a Salt Lake City mall said he simply did what his fellow officers would have done.

"I felt that, whether I'm in my own city or not, if I have the ability to protect more people or prevent loss of lives, I have an obligation," Officer Ken Hammond told reporters.

"I was in a situation that I was carrying my gun, and I felt that I had to do something. I couldn't let any more take place."

The off-duty officer from Ogden, north of Salt Lake City, was on a Valentine's Day date with his wife when Sulejmen Talovic, 18, walked into Trolley Square mall with two guns Monday.

The teenager had "one thing on his mind, and that was to kill a large number of people," Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank said. (Read full story)

Authorities said Talovic killed five people and wounded four more before he was fatally shot by police. Talovic's motive is unknown.

The police chief praised what he called "heroic acts" by Hammond.

"There is no question that his quick actions saved the lives of numerous other people," Burbank said.

Hammond and his wife, Sarita, had eaten dinner and walked through the mall afterward. At one point, she made a stop, he said, and he heard a "sort of popping noise" while sitting on a bench. At first, he dismissed it as mall construction. (Watch Hammond describe romantic dinner, then chaos Video)

As the couple walked, Hammond said, he saw "seriously injured" people. Looking in another direction, he said, he saw a man with a shotgun walking out of the business where the injured people were. He told his wife to go back to the restaurant and call 911.

Although he was standing on the second floor and the suspect was on the first floor, he said he identified himself as a police officer and drew his weapon. The suspect shot at him twice but missed him, he said.

He laid on the ground but was concerned the suspect might come up the escalators located behind him.

When he stood up, he said, he saw a uniformed Salt Lake City police officer standing on the lower level.

"It was kind of tense for a few seconds. ... I'm standing there in plain clothes with a gun out," said Hammond. "We just kind of stared at each other. I'm screaming as loud as I can, 'I'm Officer Hammond, Ogden City Police. I'm off-duty, OPD' -- just kept repeating myself."

He approached the Salt Lake City officer, he said, and the two were able to locate the suspect and exchanged gunfire with him, eventually killing him.

The shooting was under investigation and it remained unclear Tuesday who fired the shot that killed the suspect. Hammond and other officers were placed on administrative leave, a routine step after shootings that involve police.

"I'm on a Valentine's Day date with my wife," Hammond said. "I'm not ready for that. I'm not expecting that. I did have my weapon with me. My first concern was her, getting her away. She's pregnant, and I didn't want her anywhere near that."

"I don't think that I did anything different than the rest of the guys I work with wouldn't have done," he said. "I just happened to be the one that was there. ... I don't necessarily feel like a hero."

But Hammond said he hopes he saved lives, and believes "we were there for a reason. I had my gun on me for a reason. We decided to eat dessert -- which we normally don't do -- for a reason, she decided to take a break -- everything happened for a reason."


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Officer Ken Hammond, with wife Sarita, talks about how they were on an early Valentine's Day date when he heard the gunman shooting.

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