Umpqua Community College shooting

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Umpqua Community College shooting
photograph showing Snyder Hall, the scene of the shooting
Snyder Hall, the scene of the shooting
Location Roseburg, Oregon, U.S.
Coordinates 43°17′20″N 123°19′55″W / 43.2888°N 123.3320°W / 43.2888; -123.3320Coordinates: 43°17′20″N 123°19′55″W / 43.2888°N 123.3320°W / 43.2888; -123.3320
 (Snyder Hall)
Date October 1, 2015; 2 years ago (2015-10-01)
10:38 a.m. – 10:48 a.m. (PDT)
Attack type
School shooting, mass shooting, mass murder, shootout, murder–suicide
Weapons
Deaths 10 (including the perpetrator)
Non-fatal injuries
8
Perpetrator Christopher Harper-Mercer

The Umpqua Community College shooting occurred on October 1, 2015, at the UCC campus near Roseburg, Oregon, United States. Chris Harper-Mercer, a 26-year-old enrolled at the school, fatally shot an assistant professor and eight students in a classroom. Eight others were injured. Roseburg police detectives responding to the incident engaged Harper-Mercer in a brief shootout. After being wounded, he killed himself by shooting himself in the head. The mass shooting was the deadliest in Oregon's modern history.[a]

Shooting[edit]

At 10:38 a.m. PDT, the first 9-1-1 call was made from Snyder Hall on the school campus reporting gunfire. Students reported that the shooting began in Classroom 15, where English and writing classes are conducted.[4][5]

Harper-Mercer, who was a student in the writing class, entered the classroom and fired a warning shot.[6] Some witnesses said he then forced fellow students to the center of the classroom. Before he opened fire on the other students, he deliberately spared one student's life so that student could deliver a package from him to police. He forced this student to sit at the back of the classroom and watch as he continued shooting with two handguns (Glock 19 and Taurus PT24/7).[7][8][9]

Harper-Mercer first shot the assistant English professor at point-blank range. He allegedly asked two students for their religion, shooting them after they gave him a response.[6][10] Other witnesses said he asked if students were Christians, telling those who replied in the affirmative that they would go to heaven as he shot them, although one victim was agnostic[11] and another was pagan.[12] Some students were shot multiple times;[6][13] one woman was struck several times in the stomach while trying to close a classroom door.[14] One witness said he made a woman beg for her life before shooting her, shot another woman when she tried to reason with him,[15] and shot a third woman in the leg after she tried to defend herself with a desk.[10] One victim, Sarena Dawn Moore, was killed while trying to climb back into a wheelchair at his orders.[6][16]

Two plainclothes detectives from the Roseburg Police Department were the first to respond to the scene. They arrived at the hallway of Snyder Hall at 10:44, six minutes after the first 9-1-1 call was received. Two minutes later, Harper-Mercer reloaded his handguns and leaned out of the classroom, firing several shots at the officers. They fired three shots in return, hitting him once in the right side.[17] After two more minutes of shooting at the officers, the wounded Harper-Mercer retreated into the classroom and killed himself with a single shot to his head.[6][8][18][19] None of the officers were injured.[2][20][21]

Aftermath[edit]

Following the shooting, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents launched a campus-wide search for explosives. Six firearms were recovered from the crime scene:[22] five handguns and one long gun. None were owned by his mother.[23][24][25][26] The long gun, a 5.56x45mm Del-Ton DTI-15 semi-automatic rifle, was not used during the incident.[27] Harper-Mercer also had a flak jacket and "enough ammunition for a prolonged gunfight".[28][29] Police said they found eight other firearms at his apartment, and that all of the weapons were purchased legally by him or members of his family.[19][30] The killer's mother moved out of the apartment they had shared, returning to California where she renewed her nursing license.[23]

Victims[edit]

Fatalities[edit]

Harper-Mercer killed eight students and an assistant professor. Eight died at the scene and the ninth died at Mercy Medical Center. They were identified as:[31][32]

  • Lucero Alcaraz, 19
  • Treven Taylor Anspach, 20
  • Rebecka Ann Carnes, 18[33]
  • Quinn Glen Cooper, 18
  • Kim Saltmarsh Dietz, 59
  • Lucas Eibel, 18
  • Jason Dale Johnson, 33
  • Lawrence Levine, 67 (assistant professor)[34]
  • Sarena Dawn Moore, 44

Injured[edit]

Eight other students were injured,[35][36] some with multiple gunshot wounds.[31][37]

Among the wounded was Chris Mintz, a U.S. Army veteran who was studying fitness training at the college,[38] who responded when he heard screams coming from an adjacent classroom. He blocked the connected door with his body to allow his class to escape. He next left the building to alert students in the library to evacuate. Returning to the shooting scene, he advised a wounded student to stay down and be quiet. At that point, Harper-Mercer leaned out from the classroom into the hallway and shot Mintz five times as he was first standing, then falling to the floor, because he said Mintz had called police. Mintz pleaded that he not be killed on his son's birthday and said an apparently emotionless Harper-Mercer withdrew back into the classroom.[39]

At a press conference held on October 3, Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin thanked Mintz for his actions.[40] To help pay for his medical bills, Mintz's family set up a GoFundMe account. By the end of that day, it had already received more than US$650,000 in donations.[41] Mintz was released from a hospital on October 7.[42] On October 13, a 16-year-old girl who was critically wounded in the shooting was released from a hospital.[43]

Perpetrator[edit]

Christopher Harper-Mercer
Born (1989-07-26)July 26, 1989
Los Angeles County, California
Died October 1, 2015(2015-10-01) (aged 26)
Roseburg, Oregon
Cause of death Suicide
Nationality American
Alma mater El Camino College
Occupation Student
Parent(s) Ian Mercer (father)
Laurel Harper (mother)

Christopher Sean "Chris" Harper-Mercer[31] (July 26, 1989 – October 1, 2015) was enrolled in the introductory composition class where he shot his victims.[31][44] He was born in Los Angeles County, California to Ian Mercer and Laurel Margaret Harper, and lived with his mother during the separation and divorce of his parents, who agreed to shared legal custody. Harper-Mercer continued to live with his mother and remained with her when she moved to Oregon for work.[45] His father had not seen him for about two years following his son's move out of state.[46][47][48]

Harper-Mercer joined the U.S. Army in 2008, but was discharged after five weeks for his failure to meet the "minimum administrative standards" of basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.[31][49] Officials linked to the investigation said that he was discharged as the result of a suicide attempt, but Army officials did not comment on this.[50] In 2009, he graduated from Switzer Learning Center, a school for teenagers with learning disabilities or emotional issues.[19][51] Laurel Harper was reportedly protective of him[52] and tried to shield him from various perceived annoyances, some of them minor, in their neighborhood in Torrance, California.[49] From early 2010 to early 2012, Harper-Mercer attended El Camino College in Torrance.[53]

Harper-Mercer maintained several Internet accounts, including one in which he described himself as mixed race.[54][55][b] Media reports said he had an e-mail address linked to an account on a BitTorrent website. The last upload on the account, three days before the Umpqua shooting, was a documentary on the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.[58][59] According to the Los Angeles Times, unnamed law enforcement sources described him as a "hate-filled" man with antireligious and white supremacist leanings, and with long-term mental-health issues.[60] His mother, Laurel Harper, had previously written anonymously in an online forum that both she and her son had Asperger syndrome.[61][62]

He and his mother moved to Winchester, Oregon in 2013 after she received a job there.[45][49] There were fourteen legally purchased weapons kept in the apartment, and Harper-Mercer's mother wrote online that she always kept full magazines in Glock pistols and an AR-15 rifle inside.[63] The two often spent time together at shooting ranges, but Harper-Mercer was otherwise extremely isolated.[64]

Harper-Mercer had been placed on academic probation at Umpqua Community College for falling below a C average. A letter dated September 1 warned him that he could be suspended if he did not raise his grades. A UCC tuition bill due on October 6 noted that Harper-Mercer owed $2,021.[53]

On the day of the shooting, Harper-Mercer gave a survivor numerous writings showing he had studied mass killings, including the 2014 killing spree at Isla Vista, California.[65] These expressed his sexual frustration as a virgin, animosity toward black men, and a lack of fulfillment in his isolated life.[66][67][68] In them, he said "Other people think I'm crazy, but I'm not. I'm the sane one,"[69] and that he would be "welcomed in Hell and embraced by the devil."[70] He also reportedly admired the perpetrator of the WDBJ shooting for the fame received, and wrote that: "A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day."[71][72][73]

Reactions[edit]

Video of President Obama delivering a statement on the shooting (12:44)[c]

Oregon Governor Kate Brown said she was heartbroken by the events and that she would immediately travel to Roseburg. The American Association of Community Colleges and the Association of Community College Trustees issued a joint statement, calling the shooting a tragedy and expressing their commitment to on-campus safety.[74]

Sheriff John Hanlin of Douglas County said he would not "name the shooter ... I will not give him credit for this horrific act of cowardice. Media will get the name confirmed in time ... but you will never hear us use it."[75][d]

U.S. President Barack Obama said that "thoughts and prayers [do] not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel, and it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted some place else in America next week or a couple months from now."[c] He ordered the U.S. flag to be flown at half staff in memory of the victims the day after the shootings. On October 5, the White House announced that Obama would continue to take more executive action on the subject of gun control.[78] Obama was met at Roseburg Regional Airport by around 200 protesters rallying behind a security fence, some with holstered weapons, who also showed support for Sheriff Hanlin, who had been highly visible during press conferences about the shooting. After 20 children and six school staff were shot and killed in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Hanlin had sent a letter to Vice President Joe Biden saying he would not enforce any new gun legislation he deemed to be unconstitutional.[79]

Although Harper-Mercer had suffered from substantial mental illness, given that he had never been involuntarily committed in Oregon, nothing in existing state law in effect just two days before the shooting would have prohibited him from purchasing firearms. On that day he passed a background check and bought a .380 semiautomatic handgun.[80] However, an Oregon law passed in 2017 will make it easier, starting in 2018, for family or law enforcement to take guns away from those suffering from mental illness.[80]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The shooting is considered the deadliest shooting since 1887,[2][3] when 10 to 34 Chinese miners were shot dead at a site in Hells Canyon later named Chinese Massacre Cove.
  2. ^ According to relatives and neighbors, Harper-Mercer's mother is black and his father is white.[56][57]
  3. ^ a b See:
  4. ^ The practice of withholding a perpetrator's name is controversial. The Associated Press cited a recent study suggesting that copycat crimes were more likely to happen within an average of 13 days following significant press coverage of a mass shooting, while noting that criminologists and ethicists say withholding names could make it more difficult to track patterns of behavior and prevent future acts of violence.[76][77]

References[edit]

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