ROSEBURG (United States) • An Iraq war veteran and mixed martial arts fighter was hailed a hero after blocking a gunman from entering a classroom, possibly saving lives during a mass shooting in Oregon.
Mr Chris Mintz, 30, who was studying to become a fitness trainer at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, sprung into action on Thursday when the shooting began, his family and witnesses said.
He tried to prevent the gunman - widely identified as Chris Harper Mercer, 26 - from entering the classroom by throwing his weight against the door. But the gunman managed to blast his way in and shot him seven times, ignoring his pleas that it was his son Tirek's sixth birthday. "He told him, 'please don't do this, it's my son's birthday today'," Mr Mintz's cousin Ariana Earnhardt told CNN.
The family said that Mr Mintz was shot in the back, abdomen and left hand and suffered two broken legs. He underwent seven hours of surgery and will be in a wheelchair for some time. "He's going to have to learn to walk again," Ms Earnhardt said. "But he walked away with his life, and that's more than so many other people did."
Mr Mintz was an infantry soldier in the army and served in Iraq, said his former girlfriend Jamie Skinner. "He's a combat vet. He's trained in crisis-type situation, and his goal was to protect," she added.
When emergency workers arrived, Mr Mintz was thinking of their son, who was autistic, she said. He told first responders it was his day to pick up his boy from school.
Mr Mintz's family has set up a GoFundMe campaign, hoping to raise US$10,000 (S$14,000) to help with his rehabilitation. It has raised more than US$520,000 as of yesterday.
While recovering at a hospital, Mr Mintz expressed concern for the others hurt in the shooting. "Hope the others injured and their families are doing well," he said on his Facebook page yesterday.
Friends and family said his bravery came as no surprise. "Heroism is only defined by coming to the aid of another human. That's what Chris was doing," Ms Skinner said.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, NEW YORK TIMES