Oregon gunman queried students on religion during shootings
A prayer circle is held Oct. 5 at Snyder Hall, the site of the Umpqua Community College mass shooting.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Despite the campus being taped off by police, Umpqua Community College reopened a few days after the shooting.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Law enforcement officials stand guard outside Snyder Hall, enclosed by tarp.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Mathew Downing, right, a survivor of the Umpqua Community College mass shooting, gets a hug as soon as he arrives back on campus.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Sharon Kirkham and Kristapher Yates visit a memorial on campus.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Students, faculty and staff members linger in Snyder Hall as a sense of normalcy returns to the reopened campus.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Umpqua Community College President Rita Cavin at a news conference on campus.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Umpqua Community College has reopened to faculty and staff on Oct. 5 after the mass shooting shut down the campus in Roseburg, Ore. A woman brings flowers to the school.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
People embrace at the school.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Local and national church groups, along with community members, gather on Oct. 4 to pray at a makeshift memorial outside Snyder Hall, the building at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., where the mass shooting occurred.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Prayers at Umpqua Community College.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Outside Snyder Hall.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
At the New Beginnings Church of God in Roseburg, Ore., on Oct. 4, Pastor Randy Scroggins hugs a survivor of the Umpqua Community College mass shooting.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Lacey Scroggins, 18, center left, and her mother, Lisa, weep as they listen to Pastor Randy Scroggins talk about the Umpqua Community College mass shooting, during Sunday service at the New Beginnings Church of God.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Community members sing songs of praise during the service.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Pastor Randy Scroggins gives his sermon.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Christina and Kyle Workman attend a vigil on Oct. 3 at Riverbend Park in Winston, Ore., for victims of the mass shooting.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Residents mourn shooting victims at a vigil in Riverbend Park in Winston, Ore.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Friends of Rebecka Ann Carnes, one of the Umpqua Community College shooting victims, mourn at a vigil in Riverbend Park in Winston, Ore.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Friends of Rebecka Ann Carnes, an Umpqua Community College shooting victim, pray before a memorial service called ‘Prayers for Roseburg,’ at Riverbend Park in Winston, Ore.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Community members hold a vigil at Riverbend Park in Winston, Ore., for victims of the mass shooting.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Residents hold a vigil during a memorial service called ‘Prayers for Roseburg’ at Riverbend Park in Winston, Ore.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Heidi Wickersham, left, wipes away tears while consoling her sister, Gwendolyn Wickersham, a UCC student, at a vigil in Riverbend Park in Winston, Ore.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Dinah Johnson, a UCC student who was on campus in a biology lab during the mass shooting, weeps at a vigil in Riverbend Park in Winston, Ore.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Mourners gather for an emotional memorial service in Winston, Ore., about 8 miles from Roseburg.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Toni New, a chaplain with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, leads a prayer with friends of Roseburg shooting victim Rebecka Ann Carnes at a memorial service in nearby Winston, Ore.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin at a news conference Saturday, speaking about first responders to the shooting scene.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Robin Griffith of Portland pays her respects to the victims Saturday while in Roseburg.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
The Roseburg High School marching band performs in Roseburg to honor the victims and their families and to raise money for a relief fund.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Bonnie Schaan, center, walks away from reporters on Saturday after updating them on her 16-year-old daughter, Cheyeanne Fitzgerald, who is in critical condition after the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Portland, Ore., residents Dave and Robin Griffith stop by a makeshift memorial for victims of the attack at Umpqua Community College, in Roseburg.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Roads around Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., remained closed on Oct. 3, 2015, two days after a gunman opened fire on campus.(John Locher / Associatred Press)
A message of healing is displayed at a local business after a fatal shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore.(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Students and staff of Umpqua Community College arrive at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, where they were offered counseling and a bus ride back to campus to pick up their possessions.
(Scott Olson / Getty Images)
Jennifer Hoffman, right, led family and friends of Emilio Hoffman, a Reynolds High School shooting victim, in spelling out words including “hope” and “love” with rocks in Roseburg on Friday.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Michael Garwood, a wildland firefighter who most recently worked the Valley fire, pays his respects at a memorial along the road leading to Umpqua Community College.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
People board buses to retrieve their vehicles at Umpqua Community College after the mass shooting.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin answers questions on the shooting at a press conference in Roseburg, Ore.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Portland Police Sgt. Peter Simpson, left, and Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin stand in front of photos of three of the victims of the Umpqua Community College shooting. In the photos, from left, are Quinn Cooper, 18, Lucas Eibel, 18, and Jason Johnson, 33.(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)
Signs of support are posted around Roseburg, Ore.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Reporters copy photographs of three of the victims of the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College that were displayed at a news conference, Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, in Roseburg, Ore.(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)
Signs of support are posted in Roseburg, Ore.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Douglas County Deputy Sheriff Greg Kennerly, left, and Oregon State Trooper Tom Willis, stand guard outside the apartment building, where alleged Umpqua Community College gunman Chris Harper Mercer lived.(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
A search and rescue vehicle is seen parked at the entrance to Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.(JOSH EDELSON / AFP/Getty Images)
After an emotional press conference, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown hugs first responders.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
The police lines have come down around the apartment building where the Umpqua Community College shooter Chris Harper Mercer lived, in Winchester, Oregon.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Mourners at a vigil for victims of the college shooting in Roseburg, Ore., on Oct. 1.(Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)
Sunrise along the North Umpqua River with Umpqua Community College in the background, Friday morning. Nine people were killed and seven injured at Umpqua Community College when Chris Harper Mercer went a shooting rampage Thursday, October 1, 2015.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Media outlets at Umpqua College Road and Hwy 99. where the road to the campus remains closed Friday morning.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Signs, flowers and candles are seen at a vigil.(Johs Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)
Residents of Roseburg, Ore., hold a candlelight vigil for victims of the shooting at Umpqua Community College on Oct. 1.(Michael Lloyd / Getty Images)
Residents of Roseburg, Ore., gather at an Oct. 1 candlelight vigil for the victims of the shooting at Umpqua Community College earlier in the day.(Michael Lloyd / Getty Images)
Ian Mercer, father of Oregon shooting suspect Chris Harper-Mercer, talks to the news media outside his home on Jovan Street in Tarzana. “It’s been a devastating day for me and my family,” he said.(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Chris Harper-Mercer, who has been identified as the gunman in a shooting rampage at a community college in Roseburg, Ore.(MySpace.com)
Bryan Clay, 18, in Torrance talks about his former neighbor Chris Harper Mercer, identified as the gunman in the Oregon shooting.(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)
Alicia Santiago, 63, and her husband, Luis, 67, outside their home on Jovan Street in Tarzana. Their neighbor is believed to be the father of the Oregon gunman.(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Hannah Miles, right, sits with her sister Hailey after Hannah was reunited with her family in Roseburg, Ore., on Oct. 1 after a deadly shooting at Umpqua Community College.(Andy Nelson / Register-Guard )
President Obama speaks at the White House about the shooting. “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,” he said.(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)
A bullet casing is marked at the scene of a deadly shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., on Thursday.(Michael Sullivan / Associated Press)
Bystanders console each other on a road leading to the Umpqua Community College campus in Roseburg, Ore. following a deadly shooting at the school on Thursday.(Chris Pietsch / Associated Press)
Authorities respond to a shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., on Thursday.(Michael Sullivan / The News-Review)
Friends and family are reunited with students at the local fairgrounds after a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., on Thursday.(Ryan Kang / Associated Press)
Students, staff and faculty are evacuated from Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., after a deadly shooting on Thursday.(Michael Sullivan / The News-Review)
Students, staff and faculty are evacuated from Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., after a deadly shooting at the school Thursday.(Michael Sullivan / The News-Review)
A patient is wheeled into the emergency room at Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg, Ore., following a deadly shooting at Umpqua Community College on Oct. 1.(Aaron Yost / Roseburg News-Review)
Paramedics return to their ambulances after delivering patients to Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg, Ore., following a deadly shooting at Umpqua Community College on Oct. 1.(Aaron Yost / Roseburg News-Review)
Police search students outside Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., after a fatal campus shooting attack on Oct. 1.(Mike Sullivan / Roseburg News-Review)
People gather at a roadblock near the entrance to Umpqua Community College, in Roseburg, Ore., after a fatal campus shooting attack on Oct. 1.(Ryan Kang / Associated Press)
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. on Oct. 1.(Ryan Kang / Associated Press)
People wait for information at the local fairgrounds after a deadly shooting at Umpqua Community College, in Roseburg, Ore., on Oct. 1.(Ryan Kang / Associated Press)
In one of the deadliest of a series of school shootings that have become violently familiar across the U.S., a gunman opened fire at a community college in southwestern Oregon on Thursday morning, killing at least nine and injuring seven others before dying in a shootout with police.
The massacre at Umpqua Community College in this rural lumber town began when the assailant, armed with three handguns and an assault rifle, stormed Snyder Hall and started firing, asking students about their religion as he attacked.
A series of frantic police recordings, punctuated with the scream of sirens, narrated the terrifying scene at the two-year college, about 180 miles south of Portland, where the school year had just begun Monday. The chaos was apparent as ambulances were called and victims were tallied.
Several minutes later, an officer is heard describing a gun battle with the assailant. “The suspect is down,” someone shouted, while another officer called in for “as many ambulances as possible.”
FOR THE RECORD:
Oregon shooting: This article originally reported the name of the gunman’s father as Ian Harper. His name is Ian Mercer.
The gunman was identified by a law enforcement official as Chris Harper Mercer, a resident of Oregon. Mercer, 26, formerly lived with his mother in Torrance before moving to Oregon. His father, Ian Mercer, lives in Tarzana.
“Shocked is all I can say,” Mercer told reporters Thursday night. “It’s been a devastating day.”
Mercer is not believed to be connected to the college at this time, the law enforcement source said, either as a student or staff member. The gunman’s motive “is not immediately clear,” he said.
Oregon authorities have provided no details about the suspect. In a brief evening news conference, Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said the gunman’s official identification would come from the medical examiner’s office.
Hanlin was vehement in his resolve never to say the shooter’s name – a stance that has grown increasingly common among those touched by mass shootings.
“Let me be very clear,” the sheriff said before heading to a vigil for the victims. “I will not name the shooter. I will not give him the credit he probably sought.”
Hanlin predicted accurately that “media will get the name confirmed in time.” But he said in no uncertain terms that “you will never hear me use his name.... We encourage you to not repeat it. We encourage you not to glorify and create sensationalism for him. He in no way deserves this. Focus your attention on the victims and the families and helping them.”
President Obama, visibly angry, laid blame on the nation’s failure to pass tighter gun laws.
“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,” the president said.
“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 upon my experience as president, I can’t guarantee that,” he said. “And that’s terrible to say.”
The attack was among the worst mass school shootings over the last two decades, including the one at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 in which 13 people were killed; the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut in 2012, which claimed 26 lives; and the rampage at Virginia Tech in 2007, in which 32 people were killed.
FOR THE RECORD
8:25 p.m.: A previous version of this article mistakenly said 28 people were killed at Sandy Hook.
Ana Boylan, 18, was in her classroom when the gunman entered and shot her professor, she recounted to family members Thursday afternoon.
“They just laid on the ground and pretended they were dead,” Willis said.
As Boylan lay there, she heard the gunman ask others in the classroom to rise and state their religion, she told her grandmother. “If they said they were Christians, they were shot again,” Willis said.
A law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly, confirmed that the gunman asked students about their religion during the shootings.
Cassandra Welding, a 20-year-old studying early childhood education, was in a writing class at a computer lab in the Snyder building when the shooting occurred. Class was nearly over, and her professor had left the classroom to retrieve some papers for students, Welding said. Moments later the third-year student heard a noise coming from the room next door.
“It sounded like a balloon popped … and then five seconds later I heard it again,” she said in an interview. “We knew something wasn’t right.”
When a classmate of Welding’s walked to the door and opened it to peek outside, she was shot, Welding said.
“She was halfway in the doorway, and the door was still open,” Welding said. “We were screaming, ‘Close the door! Close the door!’”
Another classmate dragged the woman in and locked the door and someone else turned off the lights. Students performed CPR on the woman, who Welding said looked as though she had been shot in the torso.
“I kept hearing that noise, one after another,” Welding said. “I probably heard about 40.” The students crawled along the floor, she said. Gathering in the back right corner of the classroom, the farthest away from the door.
“I was so terrified for my life and I was shaking,” Welding recalled.
Oregon community college shooting
Neighbor at Torrance apartment complex recalls encounters with Oregon shooter Chris Harper Mercer
Someone called 911. Welding got on the phone with her mother. Blood covered the walls near the student who’d been shot, Welding said, and her broken glasses lay on the floor.
“Hey, Mom, there’s a shooting at school,” she told her mother, whispering because she was afraid the shooter could come in at any minute. “I just heard other people in tears, crying, calling their loved ones and telling them, ‘I love you,’” Welding said. “It was such a heart-wrenching thing.”
After some time, Welding said, she could hear officers bust in next door, yelling, “Get down! Get down!”
Two more gunshots rang out, Welding said. Then, nothing.
Minutes later, she said, police and SWAT team members entered the classroom to tell them everything was OK and to ask for the students’ statements. Officers then escorted the students to the library, where they searched their bags and patted them down. On the way out, Welding said, she saw a woman being taken away on a stretcher.
Her wounded classmate was still breathing when the paramedics arrived, she said, but she still doesn’t know the woman’s fate, or her teacher’s.
“It’s just horrific that this had to happen again,” Welding said, noting a shooting that occurred several years ago. “The community is such a small community and everyone’s either friends or family.”
Another student, McCrae Kittelman, was in math class in a building next door when his professor sprinted into the room with news of the attack.
“That was one of the most strange and disquieting parts,” Kittelman, 17, told Fox News and others while still in lockdown. “There were no sounds at all.”
Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman’s 19-year-old son was on campus when the shooting began. He said the young man was prepared with an emergency plan — and lucky: “He immediately left campus, went to a friend’s house, to a safe location, and called me.
“We are now in that horrible club of schools that have had to deal with this,” Freeman said in an interview. “I hope communities around our nation will pray for us.”
By dusk, state troopers and sheriff’s deputies had blocked off the road leading to the college, making the school impossible to see past the hills that dominate the town. There were no onlookers along the cordon, just a line of parked television trucks and the glow of the lights cast toward the TV journalists who were broadcasting live from the scene.
Gov. Kate Brown ordered flags lowered to half-staff at all public institutions in the state until sunset Friday in honor of the victims.
Atty. Gen. Ellen Rosenblum lamented in a Facebook post that “this unspeakable tragedy that occurred at 10:30 this morning, sadly, puts Oregon on the growing list of horrendous mass shootings in our country.”
And former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, whose political career was ended by gunman Jared Loughner, tweeted: “On a plane and learning about the heinous shooting in Oregon. A community’s heart has been tested but will not be broken.”
Umpqua has a student population of about 3,300 full- and part-time students. According to the campus website, it offers “a peaceful, safe atmosphere and year-round recreational activities.”
The college is known for a robust theater program and recently added a winemaking program. But the school has also suffered strains, facing a budget shortfall of $1 million, staff layoffs and enrollment declines due to a strengthening job market, according to the News-Review, a Roseburg paper.
Speaking to reporters late Thursday, college President Rita Calvin said the attack on her campus was both a “tragedy and an anomaly.”
“I feel awful. To witness the families that were waiting for the students in the last bus and to see all of the hugs and weeping and trauma that has gone on,” Calvin said. “More people were hurt than just the ones that were shot.”
Calvin said the school was not aware of any of the rumored threatening messages the shooter may have left on social media in recent days, and said no threats had been made against the campus recently.
The campus employs at least one security officer, and several faculty members are retired law enforcement personnel, according to school officials. But none of them are allowed to be armed, she said.
“We have a no-guns-on-campus policy,” Calvin said.
Mercy Hospital in Roseburg confirmed Thursday afternoon that it received 10 patients and three more were on the way. PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend in Springfield, Ore., tweeted that two victims had arrived and more were expected.
Cameron Anspach, 24, said Thursday afternoon that his family believed his brother, Treven Anspach, 20, was on campus during the shooting.
“No one’s heard from him or anything,” said Anspach, who added that his family was searching hospitals and the evacuation center at the county fairgrounds where students and faculty were sent.
“We’re waiting to see if he shows up,” Anspach said.
By Thursday evening, it appeared that the young man had survived but was injured.
Tweeted Hanna Marie Harwood: “For everyone upset about Treven, I just found out that he’s up in Eugene having surgery rn! Everyone please pray for him.”
She ended with an icon of hands in prayer.
Pearce reported from Roseburg, La Ganga from Seattle and Mai-Duc from Los Angeles. Staff writers Richard Serrano, James Queally, Sarah Parvini, Carla Rivera, Michael Muskal, Michael A. Memoli, Richard Winton and Ann M. Simmons contributed to this report.
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