Randy Scroggins sat down on his porch as dusk fell Saturday, his eyes red with emotion and exhaustion. He had a story to tell. It was time to tell it.
Scroggins’ story was about his 18-year-old daughter, Lacey, and about the boy he believes saved her life on Thursday when a gunman strode into her classroom at Umpqua Community College, killing her teacher and eight of her schoolmates before fatally shooting himself.
It was one of the worst tragedies in Oregon’s history. Lacey Scroggins lived. The boy didn’t.
Randy Scroggins is still trying to make sense of it, if he can.
“Here’s what I do know: I know that I’m grateful,” said Scroggins, 56, a local pastor, his voice wavering as he spoke Saturday evening. “My daughter’s alive. And I’m grateful my daughter’s alive. And I am deeply, deeply sorry that others are not. ... And I am grateful for the young man that I still believe is the reason that my daughter is alive.”
Lacey Scroggins’ day Thursday began with a driving lesson with her father. She had just bought a stick shift but didn’t quite know how to drive it without making it shudder and jerk. She called it off at 9:20 a.m., saying she had to get to class.
Lacey is studying nursing at Umqua Community College -- she wants to be a surgeon, according to her father -- but her first class that day was expository writing, taught by Lawrence Levine.
Lacey Scroggins later told her father she remembered looking up at the clock in class to see what time it was -- 10:27 a.m. -- and a few minutes later, one of her classmates, Chris Harper-Mercer, 26, walked in.
Almost everyone who said they’d met Harper-Mercer during his time in Roseburg and earlier in Southern California recalled him as being quiet and even a little awkward. Lacey Scroggins, however, told her father that Harper-Mercer had been quite talkative and inquisitive during class earlier in the week.
“Daddy, he was talking, he was verbal, he was not mean, he was not aggressive,” she told her father. “He was just asking questions about the class.”
But this time as Harper-Mercer strode into the classroom there was a gunshot. Lacey saw broken glass. Harper-Mercer, armed with a pistol, shot two or three times at the ceiling and told everyone to get down.
“At that point in time, she actually thought it was a drill,” Scroggins said. “And then she looked up, and she said that ‘I couldn’t see the teacher anymore.'“
Lacey looked to her left and saw Harper-Mercer shoot someone. “‘And his body dropped to the ground, and I realized this is not a drill any longer,'“ Scroggins recalled his daughter saying.
She lay on the floor with her arms in front of her and heard the shooter say: “You, in the orange shirt. Stand up. What religion are you? Are you a Christian?”
When the student answered, Lacey told her father, “I heard, Daddy, I heard a pop, and then the thud of a body that just hit the ground.” The gunman asked the same question of another student and shot them, too, she said.
Then he told someone to stand up and come over to him.
“You’re the lucky one,” the shooter said, as Lacey related it to her father. “I want you to give this bag to whoever needs it. I’ve got a flash drive in it, and the rest of us, we will all be together in just a moment.”
At that point, Harper-Mercer told another student that if she begged for her life, he would spare her. But when the woman began to beg, she said, “Daddy, he shot her anyway. And then he told all of us to get to the center of the room, so we all crawled as quickly as we could to the center of the room. And then he walked over, Daddy, and he began to shoot.”
One of the students on the floor next to Lacey was Treven Anspach, 20, a former classmate of hers at Sutherlin High School.
She heard a massive bang next to her ear. Anspach had been shot. He then fell or rolled onto Lacey, weighing her down. His blood spilled over her and onto the floor next to her arm.
“And then I heard him,” Lacey told her father, referring to the gunman. “He stood over me and yelled, ‘Get up! Get up!’ But because of the weight of Treven’s body on me, I felt frozen to the ground. And then he looked at the girl next to me who he had already shot, but she was still alive. And he said to her, ‘Is she still alive?'“
This time, he was talking about Lacey, who stayed quiet. “‘And the lady said, ‘I don’t know,’ and then he said, ‘She must already be dead.'“
“He walked over my daughter and shot the next one,” Scroggins said.
Lacey told her father that at one point she could hear a woman tell the gunman, “I’m sorry that you are going through this -- I’m sorry that somebody has hurt you.”
“I bet you are, but it’s not good enough,” Lacey remembered the gunman replying, and then, she said, he shot the woman.
At some point during the mayhem, Chris Mintz, a 30-year-old Iraq war veteran who was in a nearby classroom, came to see what was wrong, and Harper-Mercer shot him multiple times. Sometime later, Lacey heard a heavy burst of gunfire and realized the police had arrived.
“Then Lacey said that she heard the shooter say, ‘I’m done, you got me, I’m finished,'“ Scroggins said.
Investigators believe Harper-Mercer then killed himself.
What happened next is something Scroggins wants everyone to remember about his daughter.
When she realized it was safe to get up, he said, Lacey pulled a scarf off her neck and used it as a tourniquet on a victim, She did the same for another classmate; she remembered urging them to use a finger to plug a bullet hole.
The police soon cleared her out of the room, questioned her, and she called her parents, who were at home.
“I heard my wife as she began to say, ‘Randy’ -- she came out of the room, and Lacey was on the phone,” Scroggins said. “She was wailing, crying. I heard the words, ‘Somebody has been shot.'“
When Scroggins picked up his daughter that day, she was still covered in Anspach’s blood.
“We all believe with the last piece of effort that [Treven] had, that he moved on top of her on purpose,” Scroggins said
As he neared the end of the story, sitting on his porch as darkness settled, Scroggins’ voice was breaking.
“We know beyond a shadow of any doubt that his blood on my daughter convinced the shooter that she was dead,” he said. “That young man, whose name is Treven Anspach … saved our daughter’s life.”
Scroggins tried to call Anspach’s parents, and finally reached his mother on Saturday. The call was emotional.
“It appeared to me that although she could not understand why, as no parent could, she was grateful to know that her son was a hero in many, many people’s eyes. And ... Treven will always be our hero,” Scroggins said.
He asked Anspach’s mother what he could do in return.
“Her response was so simple: ‘Make sure that you hug your daughter every day of her life,'“ Scroggins said. “A request that we will gladly do.”
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