ROSEBURG, Oregon (REUTERS, AFP) – A gunman burst into a community college in southwest Oregon on Thursday (Oct 1) and opened fire, killing nine people and wounding seven others before police shot him to death, the authorities said, in the latest mass killing in America.
The suspect, who witnesses say fired dozens of shots into a classroom full of screaming students, was then slain in an exchange of gunfire with police in Snyder Hall at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg following the rampage shortly after 10.30am local time (1.30am Singapore Friday).
He was not identified by local authorities but CBS, CNN and NBC named him as 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer, citing anonymous law enforcement sources.
CNN reported that three handguns and a “long gun” belonging to him were recovered from the scene.
The massacre in Roseburg, a former timber town in Umpqua River Valley, is the latest in a series of mass shootings at US college campuses, movie theatres, military bases and churches in recent years. It marked the deadliest since a shooting rampage in June at a South Carolina church that killed nine.
The killings have fueled demands for more gun control in the United States, where ownership of firearms is protected by the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, and better care for the mentally ill.
President Barack Obama, speaking just hours after the rampage, said the mass killing should move Americans to demand greater gun controls from elected officials. “Somehow this has become routine,” a visibly angry Obama said. “The reporting is routine. My response here, at this podium, ends up being routine... We’ve become numb to this.”
Kortney Moore, 18, told the local News Review newspaper that she was in her writing class in Snyder Hall when a gunshot came through the window and struck her teacher in the head.
She said the gunman told people to get on the ground, then asked them to stand up and state their religion before he started shooting.https://twitter.com/BodhiLooney/status/649683252467240960/photo/1?ref_sr...^tfw
Freshman Kenny Ungerman told NBC that said he saw the shooter, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, carrying a handgun as he went into the building, followed by gunshots and screams. Student Cassandra Welding told CNN that she heard 35 to 40 shots.
Student Brady Winder, in a posting on Facebook, said he was in a classroom next door to the room where the shooting began and ran, along with his classmates, when they heard the gunfire. “I ran to the edge of the campus, down a hill and waited. From talking with a student in the classroom where it happen, almost every person in the room was shot by a man with four guns,” Winder, 23, wrote.
“I’m still shaken up... I can’t wrap my mind around this. Please just pray for the families and parents of these students,” he posted.
Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said three of the shooting victims were listed in critical condition on Thursday evening. He said the victims’ identities would not be released for 24 to 48 hours.
He also confirmed that authorities believed they had identified the shooter, but declined to release his name. “You will never hear me mention his name,” Hanlin said. “I will not give him the credit he probably sought prior to this horrific and coward live act.”
A candlelit vigil was being held Thursday at 8pm in Roseburg, a close-knit logging community with many locals among the 3,300 students at the college.
PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center emergency room doctor Hans Notenboom told reporters three women between the ages of 18 and 34 were flown to the hospital in Riverbend by helicopter, and two were moved directly into operating room.
Survivors were transported to a local fairgrounds and some family members were left waiting for hours to see if their loved ones would be among them. “We have grief counselors waiting for those parents who have no children getting off that bus,” said the college’s president, Rita Calvin.
Following the bloodshed a convoy of state and federal authorities descended on Roseburg. Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were on their way to Roseburg.
Police descended on an apartment about 3 km from the campus possibly linked to the suspect, where police tape prevented access. It was not immediately clear who lived in the residence.
The college, which began its fall term this week and serves more than 13,000 students, 3,000 of them full-time, said it would be closed until Monday. A candlelight vigil was scheduled for nightfall.
In 2012, seven students at the small Christian college Oikos University in Oakland, California, were shot dead by a former student, marking the deadliest outburst of violence at a US college since April 2007, when a student at Virginia Tech University killed 32 people and wounded 25 others before taking his own life.