Police confirmed on Saturday that Christopher Harper-Mercer, the gunman who killed nine people at a community college in Oregon this week, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound following a shootout with police officers.
Harper-Mercer was armed with six guns, multiple ammunition magazines, and body armor when he opened fire on an English class in which he was enrolled at Umpqua Community College on Thursday. Altogether, the New York Times reports, police have confiscated 14 guns from Harper-Mercer. (The rest were at his apartment.)
According to the Times, all of the gunman’s weapons had been purchased legally—either by Harper-Mercer himself or by a relative. Harper-Mercer’s father, Ian Mercer, spoke to CNN from his home in Tarzana, California, saying that he had not known his son owned so many weapons. (Harper-Mercer’s parents divorced 10 years ago; he lived with his mother.)
“How was he able to compile that kind of arsenal?” Mercer asked, going on to say that the killings “would not have happened” if his son had not been able to get his hands on the weapons.
“It has to change,” Mercer said. “How can it not? Even people that believe in the right to bear arms, what right do you have to take someone’s life?”
Police arrived on campus five minutes after the first 911 calls were made, the Times reports. Two minutes later, police officers exchanged gunfire with Harper-Mercer, and, two minutes after that, they reported that he had gone down.
Before his death, though, Harper-Mercer terrorized the classroom, telling some of his victims to crawl across the floor as he shot them, and killing another after telling her to beg for her life, the Associated Press reports.
According to the mother of a student who witnessed the killings, Harper-Mercer gave one student—the “lucky one”—something to deliver to authorities. Other survivors’ relatives confirmed the account, the AP reports: Pastor Randy Scroggins said his daughter, who survived the shooting without injury, had told him Harper-Mercer said to one student, “Don’t worry, you’re the one who is going to survive.” He gave the student his backpack, which contained “all the information that you’ll need. Give it to the police.”
Police have not said whether they received anything from Harper Mercer, although the AP reports that a law enforcement official said that a several-pages-long manifesto had been recovered.
Everything We Know About the Oregon Community College Shooting and the Alleged Gunman, Chris Harper Mercer
Thursday morning, a lone gunman opened fire at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College. By the end of his rampage, at least ten people—himself included—were dead. Here’s everything we know so far about the shooting, the alleged shooter, and his victims.
The Shooting and the Victims
Around 10:38 a.m. Thursday, a gunman armed with three handguns and an assault rifle, bullets and body armor entered a campus building and began shooting at Umpqua Community College students and professors.
The numbers are still varied, but according to reports ten people were killed and at least another seven were seriously injured.
Most of the victims’ names have been held back—officials say they may need up to 48 hours to identify the victims and notify their families—but some accounts are already surfacing.
One student, 18-year-old Ana Boylan, reportedly told her family she was sitting in class when the gunman shot and killed her professor. He proceeded to shoot Boylan in the back and also shot girl standing next to her.
“They just laid on the ground and pretended they were dead,” Boylan’s grandmother Janet Willis—who says Boylan “tearfully” recounted the ordeal from a hospital bed—told the LA Times.
Boylan’s father, Stacey, also recounted his daughter’s story on CNN.
Before going into spinal surgery, Anastasia Boylan told her father the gunman entered her classroom firing.
“I’ve been waiting to do this for years,” the gunman told the professor teaching the class. He shot him point blank, Boylan recounted.
Others were hit too, she told her family.
Everyone in the classroom dropped to the ground.
The gunman, while reloading his handgun, ordered the students to stand up and asked if they were Christians, Boylan told her family.
“And they would stand up and he said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second,’” Boylan’s father, Stacy, told CNN, relaying her account.
“And then he shot and killed them.”
Boylan, 18, was hit in the back by a bullet that traveled down her spine. While she lay bleeding on the floor, the gunman called out to her, “Hey you, blond woman,” her mother said.
Boylan is now reportedly recovering from spinal surgery.
Another student, Kortney Moore, relayed a similar story about playing dead “amid the bleeding gunshot victims” after her professor was shot in the head. She also confirms the shooter questioned his victims about their religion.
A New Zealand-based basketball coach says his former student, 20-year-old Jaylen Gerrand, was running from the gunman when bodies started falling around him. Via the Guardian:
“He was running alongside a guy and the guy was shot dead – the guy running next him,” Green told the Herald.
“He ran past three others that were shot dead, so it was horrifying, horrific.
“So he saw four people dead. He’s totally distressed, totally distressed. He just wants to come home right now. It’s a huge, huge tragedy.”
Another victim, Chris Mintz, who reportedly spent around a decade in the military, was shot seven times in back, abdomen and hands while apparently trying to prevent the gunman from entering his classroom. He also suffered two broken legs, NBC reports
“We’re not sure how his legs got broken,” his aunt told NBC. “He was on the wrestling team and and he’s done cage-fighting so it does not surprise me that he would act heroically.”
Student Cassandra Welding tells the LA Times she was in a writing class “when she heard a noise that seemed to be coming from next door.”
A classmate opened the door to look. She was shot.
“We were screaming, ‘Close the door! Close the door!’” said Welding, 20.
Another classmate dragged the woman into the room and locked the door. Someone else turned off the lights.
Classmates performed CPR on the woman, who appeared to be shot in the torso.
The sounds kept coming.
Students crawled along the floor to the back right corner of the classroom, getting as far away from the door as possible.
“I was so terrified for my life and I was shaking,” she said.
Someone used 4chan to post about Oregon college shooting in the US before it actually took place.
Blood covered the walls near the student who’d been shot. The wounded woman’s broken glasses lay on the floor.
And a freshman, Hannah Miles, told reporters Mercer may have tried to enter their classroom. Her account, via the New York Daily News:
The death toll was likely limited when a teacher and her students, huddled inside a classroom near the shootings, ignored a knock at their locked door.
“Come on out,” a man’s voice called out. “Come on out.”
Freshman Hannah Miles said the group instead stayed dead silent and ignored his invitation.
Elsewhere, students scattered “like ants,” and at least one woman swam across a creek in an attempt to escape, 23-year-old Brady Winder reportedly told the Roseburg News-Review.
The school says it employs at least one security guard, but he—and all the other people on campus (including, reportedly, several retired law enforcement officers)—were unarmed: “We have a no-guns-on-campus policy,” college president Rita Calvin tells the Los Angeles Times.
The timeline still isn’t entirely clear, but by 1:30 p.m. there was confirmation that the gunman had been shot and killed, reportedly by Sgt. Joe Kaney. In the encounter, which was reportedly recorded, an officer “can be heard describing an exchange of gunfire with the assailant before shouting, ‘The suspect is down!’” Another officer can reportedly be heard requesting “immediate medical assistance.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, all of the victims were transported to Mercy Medical Center, where one person died in the ER, four went into surgery, and three—reportedly women suffering gunshot wounds to the head—were airlifted to another hospital in Eugene “for a higher level of care.” Two others were released Thursday and another victim is expected to be released today. All were shot in the head, abdomen and/or limbs, CNN reports.
Once the shooter had been incapacitated, a student told CNN, FBI agents did a sweep of the classrooms, patted down students and evacuated them on buses to a nearby fairground.
Many of those students held a candlelight vigil for the victims Thursday night.
Oregon officials have identified 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer as the gunman. Still unclear is his motive and his connection to the college, though one woman tells CNN she was in a theater class with him and thought, “He was a little odd, like sensitive to things.”
Still, Mercer—who was shot and killed by police Thursday—left behind a seemingly detailed online trail that showed him to be a fan of guns, Nazis, the IRA, and mass shootings. In a blog post written by a user under the name lithium_love and registered to an email address associated with Mercer, the author mulled the “limelight” that followed WDBJ shooter Vester Lee Flanagan.
I have noticed that so many people like him are all alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.
And I have to say, anyone who knew him could have seen this coming. People like him have nothing left to live for, and the only thing left to do is lash out at a society that has abandoned them.
(The FBI is also investigating a message, seemingly posted to a 4chan message board Wednesday night, that warned users in the northwest not to attend their schools the next day.)
Still he also appeared to be looking for a connection with anyone willing to reach out to a Nazi-themed handle: on a dating website called Spiritual Passions, he reportedly identified himself as “Not Religious,” and stated he was looking for a soulmate.
But it’s clear many people noticed something off about Mercer, who was reportedly born in the UK before moving to California with his parents.
For many years, Mercer reportedly attended the Switzer Learning Center in Torrance, CA—a school for special needs students which lists him as a 2009 graduate. He and his mother moved to Oregon about a year ago, apparently after his mom secured a new job there.
While in Torrance, Mercer, who had a shaved head, was often spotted riding a red bike wearing “military-style, green pants with black boots” but reportedly “didn’t want to talk about it,” when a neighbor asked why.
Friends and acquaintances, speaking with the media, describe Mercer as a loner “who seemed to recoil from social interaction.” One woman tells the New York Times he spent most of his time with his mother, with whom he reportedly shared a one-bedroom apartment before their move to Oregon.
“He always seemed anxious... He always had earphones in, listening to music,” Rosario Lucumi, who rode the bus with Mercer, tells the New York Times. “He and his mother were really close... They were always together.”
Torrance neighbors also report seeing Mercer and his mother carrying what appeared to be matching rifle cases, and, when pressed, Mercer reportedly admitted he liked to practice target shooting.
And by many accounts, Mercer’s mother was fiercely protective and tried to shelter her adult son from daily disturbances. Via the New York Times:
In the offline world, Mr. Mercer’s mother sought to protect him from all manner of neighborhood annoyances, former neighbors in Torrance said, from loud children and barking dogs to household pests. Once, neighbors said, she went door-to-door with a petition to get the landlord to exterminate cockroaches in her apartment, saying they bothered her son.
“She said, ‘My son is dealing with some mental issues, and the roaches are really irritating him,’ ” Julia Winstead, 55, said. “She said they were going to go stay in a motel. Until that time, I didn’t know she had a son.”
Rosario Espinoza, 33, was once a neighbor of Mr. Mercer’s and moved into the apartment that the mother and son shared when the two moved from Torrance a couple of years ago. She said that the two “kept to themselves,” but that from time to time Mr. Mercer’s mother would complain that Ms. Espinoza’s young children were playing too loudly and bothering her son.
“They’re normal children that play, but she would get really upset,” Ms. Espinoza said. “It was during the daytime. But I guess the noise would really upset him, the son.”
But once in Oregon, neighbors say, Mercer had no problem standing up for himself: “He yelled at us, me and my husband [for smoking on our balcony],” his downstairs neighbor told the New York Times. “He was not a friendly type of guy. He did not want anything to do with anyone.”
He would often sit on his own balcony in the dark “with this little light,” another neighbor told the LA Times.
Still, his stepsister says she saw a different side of him.
“All he ever did was put everybody before himself. He wanted everyone to be happy. No matter if he was sad or mad, he would always try to cheer up everybody,” she told NBC.
Mercer’s mother was reportedly spotted “crying her eyes out” after the news broke Thursday.
Mercer’s father, Ian Harper—who reportedly lives in Tarzana with his wife and stepdaughter and didn’t appear to have much contact with his son—tells the LA Times he was “shocked” to hear the news.