Oregon Shooting: Umpqua Community College Gunman Talked Religion
At least 10 people were killed and seven others were injured when a gunman who demanded to know his victims’ religions opened fire Thursday on a campus in southwest Oregon, witnesses and authorities said.
The gunman was killed in a firefight with Douglas County sheriff’s deputies at Umpqua Community College, Sheriff John Hanlin said. Multiple law enforcement sources identified him to NBC News as Chris Harper Mercer, 26, but the sheriff wouldn’t confirm that identity, saying he didn’t want to “glorify” the man’s actions.
“You will never hear us mention his name,” Hanlin said Thursday night, because “he in no way deserves it.”
Police would not say whether they had determined a motive.
A Southern California man who said his name was Ian Mercer and claimed to be the suspect’s father told NBC Los Angeles that he had spoken with police and the FBI. “Obviously it’s been a devastating day, devastating day for me and my family,” Mercer said. “Shocked, is all I can say.”
State Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and other officials earlier had said 13 people were dead after the events near Roseburg, where the shootings were called in at 10:38 a.m. (1:38 p.m. ET). But investigators in Roseburg said they couldn’t confirm that number, and law enforcement officials told NBC News it was likely that some victims were counted multiple times amid the confusion of the scene.
“At this time, we are reporting and can confirm 10 fatalities in the shooting,” Hanlin said. “This number is the best, most accurate information that we have at this time.”
No officers were injured, said Hanlin, who said: “It’s been a terrible day.”
Investigators wouldn’t say whether Mercer was included in the 10, and they said none of the victims would be identified for at least 24 hours. Law enforcement sources said that Mercer’s connection to the college, where he wasn’t a student, remained unclear.
High school student Autumn Vicari told NBC News her 19-year-old brother J.J. was in a room filled with students at the college when the gunman entered.
According to her brother’s account, Vicari said at one point the shooter told people to stand up before asking whether they were Christian or not.
Vicari’s brother told her that anyone who responded “yes” was shot in the head. If they said “other” or didn’t answer, they were shot elsewhere in the body, usually the leg. Vicari said her brother managed to escape but watched as three people were later killed in another room. He believes the gunman didn’t spot him, Vicari said — adding that J.J. was struggling to deal with what he witnessed.
Multiple law enforcement sources told NBC News that four weapons were recovered from the scene in Roseburg, in the southwest corner of the state about 60 miles south of Eugene — three handguns and a long gun similar to an AR-style rifle. Investigators also found several magazines for 5.56mm ammunition and a ballistics vest, one of the sources said.
“This has been a long, sad, tragic day at UCC,” Rita Cavin, the college’s interim president, said Thursday night. “And the thing we should take away from it is the power that love can bring to a community.”
A visibly frustrated President Barack Obama — who has denounced the proliferation of guns in society after more than a half-dozen previous mass shootings — said “thoughts and prayers are not enough.”