A 26-year-old man opened fire on a community college campus in a rampage that left 10 people dead and seven wounded.
The college, Umpqua Community College, went into lockdown, and the gunman died in an exchange of gunfire with police officers who responded, law enforcement officials said.
With anxious parents waiting at a fairground near the campus and the police going from classroom to classroom, the authorities’ reports of the death toll varied throughout the day.
At a 5 p.m. news conference, John Hanlin, the sheriff of Douglas County, said that he believed there were 10 dead, calling the toll the “best, most accurate information we have at this time.” He declined to say whether the gunman was included in the death toll.
Law enforcement officials identified the gunman Thursday night as Chris Harper Mercer, and said he had three weapons, at least one of them a long gun and the other ones handguns. The officials said the man lived in the Roseburg area.
They said one witness had told them that Mr. Mercer had asked about people’s religions before he began firing.
- “He appears to be an angry young man who was very filled with hate,” one law enforcement official said.
The first reports of shots came at 10:38 a.m. on what was the fourth day of the new session. Students said they took place in Classroom 15 in a building called Snyder that houses many English and writing classes.
Cassandra Welding, a junior,who was in Classroom 16, next to the shooting, heard several loud bursts, like balloons popping.
A middle-aged woman behind her rose to shut the classroom door and was struck in the stomach by several bullets.
- “He was just out there, hanging outside the door,” Ms. Welding said of the gunman, “and she slumped over and I knew something wasn’t right. And they’re like, ‘She got shot, she got shot.’ And everyone is panicking.”
“I heard more shooting,” Ms. Welding said. “It was horrific. My whole body was shaking. A chill was going down my spine. We called 911.”
She added, “I was on the phone with my mom pretty much the entire time. I knew this could have been the last time I talked to her.”
Brady Winder, 23, who moved to Roseburg only three weeks ago, was in a writing class.
- “We heard one shot,” Mr. Winder said. “It sounded like someone dropped something heavy on the floor, and everybody kind of startled. There’s a door connecting our classroom to that classroom, and my teacher was going to knock on the door, but she called out, ‘Is everybody O.K.?’ And then we heard a bunch more shots. We all froze for about half a second. Everybody’s head turned and looked at each other, trying to just grasp what was happening, and someone said, ‘Those are gunshots.’ We heard people screaming next door. And then everybody took off. People were hopping over desks, knocking things over.”
Federal law enforcement officials said they were examining an online conversation on 4chan, an anonymous message board, as well as other social media, trying to determine whether any of it was linked to the gunman. In that conversation, one writer said,
- “Don’t go to school tomorrow if you are in the Northwest.”
Joe Olson, who retired as president of Umpqua Community College at the end of June, said that within the past several months, the college had discussed hiring an armed security guard, but had ultimately decided against it.
- “We talked about that over the last year because we were concerned about safety on campus,” he said. “The campus was split 50-50. We thought we were a very safe campus, and having armed security officers on campus might change the culture.”
“If you want to come on the campus and you want to shoot five people, you are going to do that before our security would arrive,” he said.
The apartment complex where the gunman had lived was roped off with police tape and under guard by deputies last night. Bronte Hart, 21, said she lived beneath Mr. Mercer, who she said would frequently shout at her for smoking on her balcony.
- “He yelled at us, me and my husband,” said Ms. Hart, who lives in the complex with her husband and father. “He was not a friendly type of guy. He did not want anything to do with anyone.”
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