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Oregon's hero, Chris Mintz, pleaded with the shooter: 'It's my son's birthday'

The Army records of the shooter at Umpqua Community College and one of his victims couldn't be more different.

Chris Harper-Mercer, who killed nine people at the school, served in the Army for about a month in 2008. Records show he was discharged for failing to meet the minimum administrative standards to serve.

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Christopher Lee Mintz, 30, was an Army veteran who had served in Iraq, according to his family. When the gunman opened fire in a classroom next to his, Mintz rushed toward the sound of the bullets, according to an account he gave Jayme Skinner, the mother of his son.

Mintz approached the gunman and pleaded with him.

"It's my son's birthday!" Mintz said as — shot seven times — he collapsed to the ground.

Bullets hit Mintz in the upper back, hip, abdomen and left hand, Skinner said. Yet somehow, he survived.

He is currently in stable condition after surgery.

An online fundraising account set up by Mintz's family had blown past its goal by Friday night. The appeal said that both of Mintz's legs were broken in the shooting, and that he would need extensive physical therapy.

The fundraising page, which includes a picture of Mintz smiling wide from his hospital bed, transformed into a public wall of admiration.

"A true American Hero!" one man wrote, pledging to donate $10.

Another wrote: "Land of the Free. Home of the Brave."

Mintz's son, Tyrik, turned 6 on Thursday. He has autism, Skinner said, and doesn't understand what happened.

"It's a blessing," Skinner said, tears welling in her eyes. "He is a really great dad — really great."

She said she wasn't at all surprised by Mintz's instinct to jump in and try to protect others. He served in Iraq, she said, as an Army infantry soldier.

"I would've been shocked if he didn't," she said.

Mintz's family told WFMY News 2 that when the shooting erupted, he told his classmates to remain calm then went to confront the heavily armed Harper-Mercer, who was later shot and killed in a gun battle with sheriff's deputies.

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Skinner said Mintz — who's also a body builder — is originally from North Carolina.

Relatives told WGHP Fox 8 that Mintz graduated in 2003 from Randleman High School, south of Greensboro, and maintainted strong relationships with relatives there even after he moved to the West Coast.

"He could have very easily died," Wanda Mintz, the victim's aunt, told the TV station. "I really think that if he wasn't such a strong, young guy, he may have died."

Mintz eventually moved to Oregon and enrolled at Umpqua. Skinner said he was studying to be a personal trainer.

Andrew Madaus, an English instructor at Umpqua, said Mintz had been in one of his past Writing 115 classes — the introductory course being taught in the classroom where the gunman opened fire on Thursday.

Madaus said Mintz "just had a great heart."

"All he wrote about was his kid," Madaus said, adding that Mintz earned "at least a B" in his class.

During his military service, Mintz earned three awards, Army records show: the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.

"Chris is an inspiration to all of us," wrote a cousin, Carla Earnhardt, on Facebook. "He is in a lot of pain right now and has a long road of recovery ahead of him. He didn't do what he did for the attention; he did it because that is Chris.

"That's the kind of person he is ... it's a shame that he fought for our country only to be shot on U.S. soil while trying to better himself."

Skinner said Mintz was a bit embarrassed by all the attention.

"Really," she said, smiling sadly, "He's worried about the other victims."

Twitter: @marisagerber

Times staff writer William Yardley contributed to this report.

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