3 Oct 2015

Kiwi heard shots, saw people falling

6:00 am on 3 October 2015

A New Zealander caught up in the shooting at a college in Oregon says he heard gunshots before people around him started falling.

Aucklander Jaylen Gerrand, 20, who is on a basketball scholarship, was at the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg when a gunman began shooting.

Ten people were killed and seven others wounded - three critically.

Mr Gerrand told Radio New Zealand he was waiting outside a class, and described a "rush of things" before people started running. He said he ran until he got out of the campus.

"I was walking past one of my classes and then just heard gunshots, saw people falling pretty much, I didn't know who they were but ...there was all just a rush of things. and people just running."

Mr Gerrand's mother has flown out tonight to be with him.

He has been praised for getting a message out, warning others about what was happening. His basketball coach in Oregon, Daniel Leeworthy, said the 20-year-old was the first of the team to text him when the shootings began, to warn others to get off campus. He says his actions were heroic.

Police shot and killed the gunman.

Jaylen Gerrand.

Jaylen Gerrand. Photo: Supplied

The coach of the Waitakere Supercity Rangers, Jeff Green, told Radio New Zealand that Mr Gerrand was running when someone next to him was shot in the head.

He said Mr Gerrand had only been at the college in Oregon for two weeks.

"He saw three other people getting shot, and managed to get away."

Mr Green said his own son was due to fly out, along with more of the team's players, to begin scholarships at the college, but they were now reconsidering the move.

A spokesperson from MFAT said Mr Gerrand was physically unharmed, doing fine, and back home with friends.

He was studying at the college on a basketball scholarship, which he had said was "his dream."

"It's my dream to go to an American university to play basketball.

"I want to study accounting and this has been a dream since I was eight years old."

On a Givealittle page, Mr Gerrand said his journey to the US was dedicated to his family.

"They are important to me and I want to make them proud.

"I have been supporting my family since our dad left three and a half years ago.

"At 15, I was supporting my mum and one-year-old twin brothers while still going to school, maintaining my grades & playing basketball for my school and NZ," he wrote.

Prime Minister John Key, who is in New York where he has addressed the United Nations General Assembly, said Mr Gerrand would get all the support he needed.

He also said the unwillingness of American politicians to introduce gun controls, meant today's mass shooting would not be the last.

"The United States has hundreds of hundreds of millions of guns in circulation and from Virginia Tech to the most recent one in Oregon, we've just seen far too many innocent people killed as a result of that.

"The truth is that the US congress and Senate seem to be unwilling to move on gun laws over here, it's a very powerful lobby."

Obama calls for tighter gun laws

A visibly frustrated President Barack Obama demanded tighter gun laws, saying prayers are "no longer enough".

Such shootings - and his own response - had become routine, he said, barely concealing his exasperation.

"We are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people.

"But we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these mass shootings every few months."

Gunman 'neutralised'

The gunman has not been identified by authorities, who said they were still investigating his motives, but CBS, CNN and NBC named him as 26-year-old Chris Harper, citing anonymous law enforcement sources.

The gunman was "neutralised" after the shooting broke out about 10:30 local time (06:30 NZT).

The Oregon sheriff said 10 people were killed and seven wounded, three critically, Reuters reports. Earlier reports from officials had put the toll at up to 15.

An ambulance at the Umpqua Community College shooting

An ambulance at the Umpqua Community College shooting Photo: AFP

Umpqua Community College, Oregon, US

Umpqua Community College Photo: Google Street View

Student Cassandra Welding heard the shooting from a next door classroom.

"It sounds like a balloon popped ... and then five seconds later I heard it again. We knew something wasn't right.

"I kept hearing that noise, one after another. I probably heard about 40.

"I was so terrified for my life and I was shaking," Ms Welding recalled.

"I just heard other people in tears, crying, calling their loved ones and telling them, 'I love you,'" Welding said. "It was such a heart-wrenching thing."

Audio from police radio channels suggests that authorities were exchanging shots with the gunman in a classroom in the college's Snyder Hall building.

An officer could be heard saying the suspect was down and that there were "multiple gunshot wounds" and calling for multiple ambulances to the scene.

The suspect supposedly used a "long gun".

A source told CNN that social media postings made by the man were being investigated; he appears to have had a conversation with others online about his intentions the night before.

An Oregon Community College employee said, "College students came in running... We went into lockdown."

Staff, students and faculty are evacuated from the college.

Staff, students and faculty are evacuated from the college. Photo: AFP

Umpqua Community College campus, Roseburg, Oregon.

The college in Roseburg, about 280 km south of Portland. Photo: Google Maps

Sgt Aaron Dunbar of the Roseburg Police Department told CNN the "entire college went into lockdown very quickly."

Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg wrote on Twitter that it received nine patients from the college and three more were en route.

Peace Health Oregon said on Twitter it expected to receive three victims from the shooting.

Students were being bussed off campus to local fairgrounds, a local reporter told Fox News.

Agents from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were earlier on their way to Roseburg.

Staff members, students and their families posted tweets about the experience.

- RNZ/BBC/Reuters