Crime & Justice

Gunman opens fire at Oregon community college; at least 9 killed

Friends and family are reunited with students at the local fairgrounds after a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College, in Roseburg, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. Multiple people were killed after a gunman opened fire at the campus early Thursday.
Friends and family are reunited with students at the local fairgrounds after a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College, in Roseburg, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. Multiple people were killed after a gunman opened fire at the campus early Thursday.
Ryan Kang/AP
Friends and family are reunited with students at the local fairgrounds after a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College, in Roseburg, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. Multiple people were killed after a gunman opened fire at the campus early Thursday.
Friends and family are reunited with students at the local fairgrounds after a deadly shooting at Umpqua Community College, in Roseburg, Ore., Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015.
Ryan Kang/AP
Friends and family are reunited with students at the local fairgrounds after a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College, in Roseburg, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. Multiple people were killed after a gunman opened fire at the campus early Thursday.
President Barack Obama delivers a statement, after a shooting at a community college in Oregon that left up to 10 people dead, in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 1, 2015. A 20-year-old gunman opened fire inside a classroom at Umpqua Community College in rural Roseburg, before being "neutralized" by police, authorities said. He was later confirmed dead.
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Friends and family are reunited with students at the local fairgrounds after a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College, in Roseburg, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. Multiple people were killed after a gunman opened fire at the campus early Thursday.
A woman speaks on her cellphone as friends and family are reunited with students at the local fairgrounds after a deadly shooting at Umpqua Community College, in Roseburg, Ore., Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015.
Ryan Kang/AP


A gunman opened fire at a rural Oregon community college Thursday, killing at least nine people before dying in a shootout with police, authorities said. One survivor said he demanded his victims state their religion before he started shooting.

The killer, who hasn't yet been publicly identified by authorities, invaded a classroom at Umpqua Community College in the small timber town of Roseburg, about 180 miles south of Portland. Authorities shed no light on his motive and said they were investigating.

On Thursday night, family members told NBC4 that they had been notified that Chris Harper Mercer, 26, had been responsible for the shooting. Mercer had lived in Torrance before moving to Oregon four years ago, the station reported.

Mercer's father, Ian Mercer, briefly spoke to NBC4, telling them he had been interviewed by police on the matter and said he was "just as shocked as anybody else" about the mass shooting.

Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said 10 people were dead and seven wounded after the attack. He did not clarify whether the number of dead included the gunman.

Earlier, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said 13 people were killed. It was unclear what led to the discrepancy.

"It's been a terrible day," a grim-faced Hanlin said. "Certainly this is a huge shock to our community."

Hours after the attack, a visibly angry President Barack Obama spoke to reporters at the White House, saying the U.S. is becoming numb to mass shootings and that the shooters have "sickness" in their minds.

Repeating his support for tighter gun-control measures, the president said thoughts and prayers are no longer enough in such situations because they do nothing to stop similar attacks from happening a few weeks or months later. He challenged voters wanting to confront the problem to vote for elected officials who will act.

Obama speaks about gun control following mass community college shooting video

Here are seven of the things Obama said in his comments about gun policy:

1. "As I said, just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It's not enough."

2. "It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun."

3. "How can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer? We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths."

4. "This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction."

5. "When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities. We have seat belt laws because we know it saves lives. So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom, that our constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who could hunt and protect their families and do everything they do under such regulations, doesn't make sense."

6. "So tonight, as those of us who are lucky enough to hug our kids a little closer are thinking about the families who aren't so fortunate, I'd ask the American people to think about how they can get our government to change these laws, and to save lives, and to let young people grow up. And that will require a change of politics on this issue."

7. "And each time this happens, I'm going to bring this up. Each time this happens, I'm going to say that we can actually do something about it but we're going to have to change our laws. And this is not something I can do by myself. I've got to have a Congress and I've got to have state legislatures and governors who are willing to work with me on this. I hope and pray that I don't have to come out again during my tenure as president to offer my condolences to families in these circumstances. But based on my experience as president, I can't guarantee that, and that's terrible to say, and it can change."

Police began receiving calls about a campus shooting at 10:38 a.m. The school has a single unarmed security guard.

Kortney Moore, 18, said she was in a freshman writing class when a shot came through the window and hit the teacher in the head.

The gunman then entered the Snyder Hall classroom and told people to get on the floor, she told the Roseburg News-Review newspaper. He told people to stand up and state their religion before opening fire.

Next door, students heard a loud thud and then a volley of gunfire, Brady Winder, 23, told the newspaper.

Students scrambled "like ants, people screaming, 'Get out!'" Winder said. He said one woman swam across a creek to get away.

The sheriff said officers had a shootout with the gunman, but it was not clear if he was killed by authorities or whether he took his own life.

The gunfire sparked panic as students ran for safety and police and ambulances rushed to the scene.

Lorie Andrews, who lives across the street from the campus, heard what sounded like fireworks and then saw police cruisers streaming in. She spoke with students as they left.

"One girl came out wrapped in a blanket with blood on her," she said.

Some students were in tears as they left. Police lined up students in a parking lot with their hands over their heads and searched them before they were bused with faculty to the nearby county fairgrounds, where counselors were available and some parents waited for their children.

Jessica Chandler of Myrtle Creek, south of Roseburg, was at the fairgrounds desperately seeking information about her 18-year-old daughter, Rebecka Carnes.

"I don't know where she is. I don't know if she's wounded. I have no idea where she's at," Chandler said.

Carnes' best friend told Chandler that her daughter had been flown by helicopter to a hospital, but she had not been able to find her at area medical centers.

Interim college President Rita Cavin said it was awful to watch families waiting for the last bus of survivors and their loved ones were not on it.

"This is a tragedy and an anomaly," she said. "We have a wonderful, warm, loving and friendly campus."

Officials at Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg, Oregon, said four of the wounded were hospitalized there and were expected to survive. Three other patients were transferred to a hospital in Springfield.

The sheriff described the town of 22,000 as a peaceful community that has crime like any other. In fact, it's no stranger to school gun violence. A freshman at the local high school shot and wounded a fellow student in 2006.

The sheriff has been vocal in opposing state and federal gun-control legislation. Earlier this year, he testified against a bill to require background checks on private, person-to-person gun sales and told a legislative committee in March that a background-check mandate would not prevent criminals from getting firearms.

He said the state should combat gun violence by cracking down on convicted criminals found with guns, and by addressing people with unmanaged mental health problems.

In 2013, Hanlin also sent a letter to Vice President Joe Biden after the shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school, declaring that he and his deputies would refuse to enforce new gun-control restrictions "offending the constitutional rights of my citizens."

Before the shooting, a posting on the message-board site 4chan included a photo of a crudely drawn frog used regularly in Internet memes with a gun and warned other users not to go to school Thursday in the Northwest. The messages that followed spoke of mass shootings, with some egging on and even offering tips to the original poster. It's unclear if the messages are tied to the shooting because of the largely anonymous nature of the site.

The community along Interstate 5 west of the Cascade Mountains is in an area where the timber industry has struggled. In recent years, officials have tried to promote the region as a tourist destination for vineyards and outdoor activities.

Many of the students in local school district go on to attend the college of 3,000 students.

"We are a small, tight community, and there is no doubt that we will have staff and students that have family and friends impacted by this event," Roseburg Public Schools Superintendent Gerry Washburn said.

Former UCC President Joe Olson, who retired in June after four years, said the school had no formal security staff, just one officer on a shift.

One of the biggest debates on campus last year was whether to post armed security officers on campus to respond to a shooting.

"I suspect this is going to start a discussion across the country about how community colleges prepare themselves for events like this," he said.

There were no immediate plans to upgrade security on the campus in light of the shooting, Cavin said.

This story has been updated.