Oregon shooting: Gunman identified as 26 year old Chris Harper Mercer

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Thursday's shooting at Oregon's Umpqua Community College appears to have started in one building before the gunman moved to the school's science building, a source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN. Those killed and wounded were found in at least two classrooms.

(CNN) — The man who opened fire at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College on Thursday has identified as 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer, multiple law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation told CNN.  Investigators have been interviewing members of his family and friends, the sources said.

Ten people were killed and another seven were injured in the shooting, he said. Earlier reports had put the number of people hurt much higher.

Officers and the gunman exchanged fire at the Roseburg campus. The shooter was a 20-year-old man, according to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, who ordered flags be flown at half-staff until sunset on Friday.

Cassandra Welding is a student at the college and was in class when the shooting started.

“I heard a popping noise, almost like a balloon popping,” she told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I knew something wasn’t right and so I get down.”

She said all of the students in her classroom dropped to the ground. They huddled together behind backpacks and chairs, underneath tables.

“We locked the doors, turned off the lights, and we were all pretty much in panic mode,” Welding said.

“We called 911 and called our parents, our loved ones … We didn’t know what was going to happen, if those were our last words or not.”

The shooting

The shooting appears to have started in one building before the gunman moved to the school’s science building, a source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN. Those killed and wounded were found in at least two classrooms.

“We arrived to find multiple patients in multiple classrooms. Law enforcement was on scene and had the shooter neutralized,” said Douglas County Fire Marshal Ray Shoufler.

He told CNN that two patients died while being transported to a hospital.

Mercy Medical Center posted on Facebook that it had received 10 patients. The extent of their injuries was not known.

Three female victims were at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

It wasn’t immediately clear why the hospitals’ numbers conflicted with the figure provided by Sheriff Hanlin.

A law enforcement official told CNN three pistols and one rifle believed to have belonged to the suspect were recovered at the scene.

ATF agents were also on scene and canine teams were en route to search for explosives, fire arms casings and ammunition, a spokesman said. FBI agents were en route.

The investigation

According to the source with knowledge of the investigation, authorities are looking at social media posts between a person they believe may have been the shooter, and others.

The conversation happened Wednesday night on 4chan, an image-based bulletin board.

In it, the writer talks about planning to carry out a shooting. Others egg him on, giving him suggestions on how to do it, and the type of weapons to use.

The responses are mixed — with some users characterizing the would-be gunman as a pathetic loser. Others called him a twisted hero.

In the posts, there is a reference to the UC Santa Barbara shooter, who wrote a manifesto and videoed himself before opening fire a year ago.

“This is the only time I’ll ever be in the news. I’m so insignificant,” read an apparent post by the would-be Oregon gunman.

The community

Roseburg is a city of about 22,000 people about 70 miles south of Eugene, Oregon, and some 180 miles south of Portland.

The school itself is up on a hill outside the city center, according to Rick Francona, a CNN military analyst who lives nearby. Francona said that logging is a big industry in the region, which is fairly rural but easily accessible from Interstate 5.

“This is so out of character for this whole area,” he said.

News of the shooting quickly reached Washington, with the state’s senior senator, Ron Wyden, visibly shaken and Sen. Jeff Merkley tweeting that he was praying for the victims and their families.

U.S. President Barack Obama was briefed on the situation and will continue to receive updates throughout the day.

He pushed for a change in gun laws when he spoke to reporters about the shooting Thursday.

“Our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel, and it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America — next week, or a couple months from now,” he said.

The school

A picturesque campus in the North Umpqua River Valley, Umpqua Community College prides itself on a “a peaceful, safe atmosphere, and year-round recreational activities,” according to its website.

It’s not a traditional institution of higher learning, as the average age of its 13,600 students was 38 during the 2013-2014 school year. Only 740 of those were full time, 2,437 were part time and more than 10,000 fell under the umbrella of “community education.”

It first began teaching classes out of rented facilities in 1961. Elton and Ruth Jackson donated 98.5 acres to house the campus in 1965.

The school will be closed until Monday as a result of the shooting.

The interim leader of Umpqua Community College called Thursday “the saddest day in the history of the college.”

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  • Reginald Lipscomb

    Gun laws have never, and will never, keep guns out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill. That is a reactionary and backwards way to address the problem. We live in a country where guns are legal to be owned by private citizens, members of the general public. The RIGHT way to address the problem is not to keep guns out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill, but rather keep the dangerously mentally ill out of the general population. That is the only way to keep them from harming others with guns, knives, bombs, or all manner of other potentially dangerous materials available to the general public. Law abiding citizens have the right to expect our government to keep us safe from the dangerously mentally ill no matter what weapons they choose to use to attempt to harm us. Putting the focus on guns simply because addressing the real issue is too hard is not just cowardly, but it is a de facto attack on the Constitution itself, and should be considered a breach of public trust and a violation of the oath of office by our elected officials.

    • Copy_Culture (@Copy_Culture)

      A) Good luck. B) You can thank Reagan for defunding mental health institutions in this country. C) You’re presenting a false dichotomy. Probably the best way is to do a mixture of what you say, and serious gun regulation. Now, serious and comprehensive gun regulation does not violate the 2nd Amendment. So, what’s the fuss?

      You talk about “the real issue.” The real issue, in fact, is that a segment of our population has a gun fetish, and they use the 2nd Amendment to exploit the fears of regular Americans so they can continue to indulge in their fetish. Let’s call it like it is. It has nothing at all to do with “rights” you think you have. You have toys, and you want to play with them. That’s it. It time to be an adult.

      • Reginald Lipscomb

        Guns are not toys. Referring to them as such identifies you as part of the problem, not part of the solution.
        In addition, until the 2nd amendment is repealed, people do have this right. There is not any question of “thinking” they have it…it is codified for the world to see. Our current gun laws already state that it is illegal for a mentally ill person to possess a gun. We don’t need any more laws than that to stop this problem. What we need is enforcement of that law, which the government is simply unable to provide. There are just too many violently mentally ill people out there who are unmonitored, untreated, and who pose an immediate danger to the public whether they have access to guns or not. Remember Timothy McVeigh? Oklahoma City bomber? No gun used there. Banning guns entirely won’t stop these things from happening. The effort is misguided, and I believe deliberately so.
        And finally, blaming Reagan is simply ignorant. It was Kennedy who defunded and gutted the mental health system, and even that was unintentional. His brilliant two part plan to do away with the abusive asylum system was never fully implemented because he was killed, and because the Johnson administration found itself with more immediate violent issues to deal with. The first part of Kennedy’s plan was to defund and close the asylums, and that was done before he died. The second part of his plan, to fund and build proper residential mental health treatment facilities (much more along the lines of Pine Rest), along with a half-way house network for non-violent/treatable mentally ill patients, was never put in place. THAT is why we have so many mentally ill people living on the streets and living in our neighborhoods without adequate treatment…the asylujms were shut down and nothing was put into place to replace them with. The mentally ill were simply put out on the street…long before Reagan even entered politics.
        In short, you are pretty clearly uninformed as far as history, and deluded as far as the reality of the law. That makes you an inflammatory and therefore destructive part of any conversation on this subject.

  • UN PC

    When a white nutcase shot the black church members obama made it all about race.
    Today when Christians are murdered, obama makes it about politics and blames ALL lawful gun owners and attack OUR civil rights.
    How much more of his Bullshit are we going to take?

    • Darwin In-Action

      Well, since Constitution no longer exists as an enforceable document (rendering the electoral system powerless), and since the US has made it illegal to secede, then we quite literally have only two options left to us if we do not want to accept America as a dictatorship. We can either hold a new revolution and/or to flee to Canada and Mexico as political refugees.