'We Began to Run': Students Describe Horror of Oregon Shooting
ROSEBURG, Ore. (AP) - Armed with multiple guns, a 26-year-old man walked into a morning writing class at a community college in this rural Oregon town and opened fire, hitting some students with multiple gunshots. One witness said the attacker demanded to know students' religion before shooting them.
Students in a classroom next door heard several shots, one right after the next, and their teacher told them to leave.
"We began to run," student Hannah Miles said. "A lot of my classmates were going every which way. We started to run to the center of campus. And I turned around, and I saw students pouring out of the building."
At least nine people were killed and seven others wounded Thursday, the fourth day of classes at Umpqua Community College in this former timber town 180 miles south of Portland. The worst mass shooting in recent Oregon history was raising questions about security at the college with about 3,000 students.
"I suspect this is going to start a discussion across the country about how community colleges prepare themselves for events like this," former college president Joe Olson said.
The killer was identified as Chris Harper Mercer, according to a government official who was not authorized to speak publicly and provided the name on condition of anonymity. Mercer died after a shootout with police, who were not saying whether they knew of any motive.
He had body armor and was armed with three pistols, a rifle and five additional magazines, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said in an incident report obtained by The Associated Press. The guns included a 9mm Glock pistol and .40-caliber Smith & Wesson, both traced to the suspect.
He also had a .40-caliber Taurus pistol traced to someone in Portland and a .556-caliber Del-Ton.
Mercer is not believed to have a criminal history. Investigators believe he may have been a student at the college because a receipt found at the scene showed he purchased textbooks from the campus bookstore two days before the shooting.
He lived in an apartment complex in nearby Winchester, where investigators found a number of firearms, Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said Friday. Details about the number and type of guns would be released later, he said.
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Mercer lived in a nearby apartment complex, which was cordoned off with yellow tape Thursday night.
A neighbor, Bronte Harte, told The Associated Press that Mercer "seemed really unfriendly" and would "sit by himself in the dark in the balcony with this little light."
Harte said a woman she believed to be Mercer's mother also lived upstairs and was "crying her eyes out" Thursday.
Social profiles linked to Mercer suggested he was fascinated by the IRA, frustrated by traditional organized religion and tracked other mass shootings.
There didn't seem to be many recent connections on the social media sites linked to Mercer, with his MySpace page just showing two friends.
In addition to the MySpace page, Mercer appeared to have at least one online dating profile, a torrents streaming account and a blog.
On a torrents streaming site and blog that appeared to belong to Mercer, posts referenced multiple shootings and downloads included several horror films and a documentary on a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. A blog post urged readers to watch the online footage of Vester Flanagan shooting two former colleagues on live TV in Virginia, while another lamented materialism as preventing spiritual development.
A MySpace page that appeared to belong to Mercer included several photos and graphics of the Irish Republican Army as well as a picture of Mercer holding a rifle.
Mercer previously lived in the Los Angeles-area suburb of Torrance with his mother. Neighbors there recalled him as uncommunicative.
His father, Ian Mercer, said late Thursday that it's been a "devastating day" for him and his family, and he has been talking to police and the FBI about the shooting. He spoke to KABC-TV and several other media outlets gathered outside his house in Tarzana, California.
Step-sister Carmen Nesnick said the shooting didn't make sense.
"All he ever did was put everyone before himself, he wanted everyone to be happy," she told KCBS-TV.