Christopher Harper-Mercer opened fire at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon on Thursday, Oct. 1, killing nine people and severely wounding several others. Harper-Mercer, 26, eventually died in a police shootout.
The chaos began in Room 15 of Snyder Hall, where Lawrence Levine was preparing to teach a writing class at 10 a.m. At the start of class, he noticed that Harper-Mercer, one of his students, was not present.
Less than 30 minutes after classes began, Harper-Mercer entered the classroom and shot Levine in the head, killing him. The carnage was mostly limited to Levine’s classroom, where almost all of the occupants were either killed or wounded. About 15 students were hostage to Harper-Mercer, cowering on the classroom floor.
Witnesses told investigators that Harper-Mercer had demanded the students tell him their faith; it appeared that the overall target was Christians, according to CNN.
Autumn Vicari said Harper-Mercer told people to stand up and asked whether they were Christians or not; if they were, they were automatically shot in the head, but if they said “other” or did not answer, they were shot elsewhere in the body, according to NBC News.
Harper-Mercer acquired a small armory prior to his rampage in Snyder Hall that consisted of body armor, five handguns, a semiautomatic rifle and several magazines of ammunition, reported The New York Times.
As the panic raged in Snyder Hall, acts of heroism shined through and prevailed. Chris Mintz, a 30-year-old Army veteran, stood up to the gunman by blocking a classroom doorway as Harper-Mercer tried to enter. Harper-Mercer shot Mintz through the doorway, and as Mintz told his attacker that is was his son’s sixth birthday while lying on the floor, Harper-Mercer shot him again before moving on. Mintz is expected to recover from his wounds, The New York Times reported.
Cheyenne Fitzgerald, a 16-year old nursing student, played dead after being shot, and used her cellphone to send a message to her family via Facebook saying, “the gunman shot me in the back,” according to NBC News.
Over the weekend, investigators delved into Harper-Mercer’s background. From their research, they discovered that the massacre may have been driven by religious frustration, as well as by the longing for the fame associated with high-profile murderers, according to The Washington Post.
This rampage is the most recent in a series of mass shootings that have produced national revulsion, leaving Republicans and Democrats divided over whether such violence should lead to stricter gun laws. In Washington D.C., President Barack Obama offered prayers for the victims and their families. He also called for stricter gun safety laws. However, there has been no success of properly enforcing these laws through his presidency, according to The Washington Post.
The Mass Shooting Tracker, a group that tracks gun violence, reported that this event was the 294th shooting involving four or more people in the United States in 2015.
The violence stopped only after authorities exchanged gunfire with Harper-Mercer. At 10:47 a.m. local time Thursday, the end of the shootout was announced over the police scanner; Harper-Mercer was killed by police.
The nine victims are as follows: Lucero Alcaraz, 19; Treven Anspach, 20; Rebecka Carnes, 18; Quinn Cooper, 18; Kim Dietz, 59; Lucas Eibel, 18; Jason Johnson, 34; Lawrence Levine 67; and Sarena Moore, 44, according to CNN.
Editor’s Note: Information from CNN, NBC News, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Mass Shooting Tracker was used in this report.