World | North America

October 02, 2015

Oregon Town Reels from Classroom Carnage

Residents of a quiet Oregon town struggled to comprehend the carnage left by the latest U.S. mass shooting as investigators puzzled over what drove a young gunman to kill nine people in a college classroom before he died in an exchange of gunfire with police.

The Thursday late-morning shooting rampage at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, a former timber town of 20,000 on the western edge of the Cascade Mountains, ranked as the deadliest mass killing this year in the United States.

The gunman stormed into a classroom in Snyder Hall on campus, shot a professor at point-blank range, then ordered cowering students to stand up and state their religion before he shot them one by one, according to survivors' accounts.

Seven people were hospitalized, three of them listed as critical.

The killer died after exchanging gunfire with two police officers who confronted him.

The gunman was not identified by local authorities, and Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin vowed never to utter his name. But a law enforcement source confirmed media reports naming the suspect as Chris Harper-Mercer, 26.

In a photo posted on what was believed to be his MySpace profile, a young man with a shaved head and dark-rimmed eyeglasses stares into the camera while holding a rifle.

"WE'VE BECOME NUMB"

At the White House, a visibly angry President Barack Obama challenged Americans across the political spectrum to press their elected leaders to enact tougher firearms-safety laws.

He lashed out at the National Rifle Association gun lobby for blocking reforms and lamented how common mass shootings had become.

"Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here, at this podium, ends up being routine," he said. "We’ve become numb to this."

Residents at an apartment house a short distance from campus where the suspect lived recognized him from photos and described him as edgy.

A man identifying himself as Ian Mercer, the gunman's father, spoke briefly to a throng of reporters and camera crews outside his home in Los Angeles on Thursday night.

"It's been a devastating day, devastating for me and my family," he said, according to a transcript provided by KNBC-TV.

Authorities offered no motive for the shooting. Hanlin, the county sheriff, said an investigation was underway by homicide detectives and federal agents. Residents of Roseburg, about 260 miles (420 km) south of Portland, were left to ponder the how and why of the violence.

Text by Reuters
 

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