3 Oct 2015

Military vet tried to stop gunman

3:24 pm on 3 October 2015

The gunman who went on a deadly rampage at an Oregon college was heavily armed and equipped with extra ammunition, authorities said, and he might have killed more people were it not for the heroism of a military veteran in an adjoining classroom.

People pray during a candlelight vigil in Roseburg,Oregon for ten people killed and seven others wounded in a shooting at a community college.

People pray during a candlelight vigil in Roseburg,Oregon for ten people killed and seven others wounded in a shooting at a community college. Photo: AFP

A day after the shooter killed nine people and wounded nine others at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, authorities sought a motive for this year's bloodiest mass shooting in the United States, where such massacres have grown all too common.

Local broadcaster KOIN reported that the gunman, identified by law enforcement sources as Chris Harper-Mercer, 26, was a student at the college and enrolled in the writing class where the shooting took place.

He stormed into a classroom on campus, shot a professor in the head and then ordered cowering students to stand up and state their religion before shooting them one by one, according to survivors' accounts.

As the gunman moved toward an adjoining classroom, Chris Mintz, 30, a US Army combat veteran who served in Iraq, tried to stop him, Jamie Skinner, the mother of Mintz's 6-year-old son said. The gunman opened fire, striking Mintz.

"When Chris hit the ground, he told him it was our son's birthday yesterday. He took a couple more rounds after that," Skinner said, adding that the gunman then changed direction and entered a different room.

"The assailant was not able to make it into the classroom, because Chris stopped him," she said, noting that Mintz was hospitalised with two broken legs and seven bullet wounds.

Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin identified the dead as Lawrence Levine, 67, the professor, and eight others who were believed to have been his students: Quinn Cooper, 18; Kim Saltmarsh Dietz, 59; Lucas Eibel, 18; Jason Johnson, 33 or 34; Sarena Moore, 44; Treven Anspach, 20; and Rebecka Carnes, 18; and Lucero Alcaraz, 19.

The gunman, who was killed by police, carried six guns, body armour and five magazines of bullets with him to campus.

Seven more firearms were found with a significant stockpile of ammunition at the apartment the suspect shared with his mother. All 13 guns were purchased legally.

Authorities have disclosed scant information about the gunman, but news agencies said he left behind hate filled statements showing animosity toward minorites.

It has also emerged that Harper-Mercer was enlisted in the US Army and served for about a month in 2008 before being discharged for failing to meet administrative standards.

New Zealand man witnessed shootings

The shootings were witnessed by New Zealander Jaylen Gerrand who is on a basketball scholarship there and is now considering his own future.

His mother flew out to the US last night to be with him.

Jaylen Gerrand.

Jaylen Gerrand. Photo: Supplied

His coach in New Zealand, Jeff Green from the Waitakere-based Supercity Rangers, said two other young New Zealanders were due to join Jaylen at the college on Tuesday.

He said at this stage they did not want to go and were delaying their trip.

Mr Green said Mr Gerrand was keen to come home after his experience.

Gunman 'targeted Christians'

The gunman who killed nine people and wounded seven others in Oregon had targeted Christians, the father of one of the victims says.

Named as Chris Harper Mercer, the gunman opened fire on Thursday inside a classroom at Umpqua Community College.

Officials said on Friday that he had body armour, three pistols, a rifle and five extra magazines of ammunition.

Mercer was shot and killed by police officers who arrived at the scene after a gun battle.

An ambulance at the Umpqua Community College shooting

An ambulance at the Umpqua Community College shooting Photo: AFP

President Barack Obama has expressed frustration over the "routine" response to mass shootings, saying the US had become "numb" to such attacks.

Stacy Boylan, whose daughter survived the shooting, told US television network CNN that his daughter described to him how the gunman asked his victims to state their religion before shooting them.

"'Are you a Christian?' he would ask them, 'and if you are a Christian stand up,'" the father recalled.

Mr Boylan said the gunman told the victims: "because you're a Christian you're going to see God in just about one second".

Another student who survived the shooting, Kortney Moore, gave a similar account to a local newspaper, The News-Review.

The attacker was identified by unnamed officers, as local police refused to release his name.

Umpqua Community College, Oregon, US

Umpqua Community College, Oregon, US Photo: Google Street View

Umpqua Community College campus, Roseburg, Oregon.

Umpqua Community College campus, Roseburg, Oregon. Photo: Google Maps

Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said he did not wish to give the gunman "the credit he probably sought prior to this horrific and cowardly act".

However, the sheriff has come under fire for his stance opposing gun control measures in the past.

Hours after the attack, President Obama reiterated demands for tighter gun laws, saying prayers are "no longer enough".

"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."

Referring to a BBC interview in which he talked about this, he said countries like the UK and Australia showed that effective legislation was possible.

Candidates vying to replace Mr Obama in office have begun to weigh in as well.

Shortly after the shooting, Republican front-runner Donald Trump called the Washington Post and described the "terrible tragedy" as sounding like "another mental health problem". He added that it appeared mass shootings were more frequent.

The Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton said "we are seeing these mass murders happen again and again and again" and called on people in the US to "get the political will to do everything we can to keep people safe".

The gunman was reportedly born in the UK and moved to the US as a young boy.

A man identified as the gunman's father, Ian Mercer, told US media he was "just as shocked as everybody" by his son's actions.

The killer's motive is not known, although police said they were investigating reports that he had warned of his intentions on social media.

In an online profile appearing to belong to the gunman, he listed hobbies including the internet and "killing zombies", described his politics as "conservative, republican" and said he was spiritual but not religious.

Lorie Andrews, who lives opposite the campus, said she heard what sounded like fireworks and when she came out of her home she saw students streaming out.

"One girl came out wrapped in a blanket with blood on her," she said.

Hannah Miles, 19, said that she and fellow students were led to a nearby bookshop, where they hid in a back room.