The gunman who killed nine people at Umpqua Community College had an uncomfortable exchange with the teacher earlier in the week, one survivor recalls.
ROSEBURG, Ore. — The gunman who killed nine people last week during a writing class at Umpqua Community College had an uncomfortable exchange with the teacher earlier in the week, a survivor said.
Nursing student Tracy Heu, 30, said the killer, Christopher Harper-Mercer, was a student who had spoken up on another day when the teacher, Lawrence Levine, asked for the definition of a vocabulary word. When Harper-Mercer offered a response, Levine “kind of corrected Chris,” Heu said in an interview at her home this week.
Levine, 67, was among the nine who died.
Another student, Lacey Scroggins, confirmed through her father, Randy Scroggins, that Harper-Mercer had engaged with the teacher and said he was a vocal member of the class, which had begun that week.
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Scroggins, 18, and Heu were among the few people to emerge alive from Classroom 15 in Snyder Hall. Heu offered an account of what happened Oct. 1:
She was in a center seat in the front row of class when the gunman strode into the room at about 10:30 a.m., smiling and wearing black clothes and a bulletproof vest.
His first shot was to the back of the room, Heu said — a warning shot, it seemed, before he ordered everyone to get down on the floor and lie on their stomachs. They huddled in the center of the room, noses to the ground.
To Heu’s right was Sarena Dawn Moore, 44, a woman in a wheelchair who had crawled to the floor, next to her service dog.
“He told her to climb back up,” Heu said. “She tried to climb back up, and he shot her. And that’s when I kind of knew: ‘Oh, my God. It’s real.’ ”
There was a spray of bullets followed by a lot of blood, she said.
At one point, Harper-Mercer began asking students about their religion, although their responses did not seem to determine whether he shot them, Heu said. She recalled that he had asked two people if they were Christians; she thought they said “yes” and that he killed them.
“He started pointing out, ‘Hey, you with the glasses, you with the yellow tank top, stand up,’ ” Heu said. “And when he did all that, he started asking, ‘What is your religion, do you believe in — are you a Christian?’ ”
“And that person would say, ‘Yeah,’ ” she continued. “He said: ‘Good. I’m going to send you to God. You’re going to see God.’ And then he’d just start shooting them.”
At some point, the gunman handed a package to Matthew Downing, 18, and instructed him to deliver it to police. A law-enforcement official later told The Associated Press that the gunman had left a manifesto at the scene and that his writing complained of not having a girlfriend and said something like: “Other people think I’m crazy, but I’m not. I’m the sane one.”
For reasons that remain unclear, the gunman left the classroom. When police arrived at 10:44 a.m., Harper-Mercer stood in the door frame of the building and then moved just outside, firing at two officers. Roseburg police Detective Sgt. Joe Kaney and Detective Todd Spingath had arrived without bulletproof vests; they fired three rounds. One lodged in the gunman’s side, police said.
The gunman, 26, then returned to the classroom, where he fatally shot himself. Downing, the student entrusted with the envelope, shouted for a student to kick the weapon — or weapons — away from the gunman’s hand. Police later recovered six guns and copious ammunition from the school.
Heu sprinted out of the room. She entered a men’s bathroom, she said, but was repelled by what she saw there: a long gun in the stall for the disabled, and a bag with its zipper open. She ran out of the building; Downing followed.
“They pointed the gun at Matthew,” Heu said of police officers who had just arrived. “They didn’t know. He was waving the envelope he had on him. I was like, ‘He’s fine. He’s a student. The shooter told him to give that to you guys.’”
At Downing’s home, his mother said he was too traumatized to talk about what happened.
Outside, Heu embraced Downing and another classmate, and climbed into an ambulance. At Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg, she was shocked to learn she had been shot in her right hand. After surgery, she went home, kissed her three children and took a shower, sobbing as her husband scrubbed blood from her tangled black hair.
Shooting after brawl leaves student dead
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — An overnight brawl between two groups of students escalated Friday when a freshman at Northern Arizona University fired at four fraternity members, killing one and wounding three. A shooting later outside a Texas Southern University student-housing complex left one dead and one wounded, officials said.
In the Arizona case, Steven Jones, 18, a Sigma Chi fraternity pledge, told police he shot the group of students, all Delta Chi fraternity members, after they hit him in the face and chased him, according to court documents. He also said he tried to administer first aid to one of the victims. It’s not clear why the fight started.
Prosecutors said the suspect’s account amounted to a “self-serving” statement and alleged Jones was the aggressor.
“There is no indication of self-defense here,” Deputy County Attorney Ammon Barker said. “The defendant had retreated from the fight, he obtained a gun and then he went back into the fray.”
Flagstaff Medical Center said it couldn’t release any information on conditions of the three survivors.
The Texas shooting happened in a parking lot at the University Courtyard Apartments, near the Houston campus. University President John Rudley said the slain student was a freshman. The second victim was shot twice and was hospitalized in stable condition, a Houston police spokeswoman said.
Two men were detained, but police said no charges had been filed.
No motive was known.