On October 2nd, classes in Room 15 of Snyder Hall at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, O.R. were interrupted as gunshots rang out from the front of the room. Christopher Harper-Mercer, a student of the college, had entered a classroom midway through the lecture wearing a bulletproof vest. After Harper-Mercer’s initial gunshot, he ordered the occupants of the room to lay on the ground and began shooting them. At the end of the carnage, 10 people had been killed while an additional 20 were injured.
While the motive of the attack isn’t entirely clear, the shooter reportedly demanded to know the religion of his victims before he killed them. In an interview with the New York Times, victim Tracy Heu stated that “[Harper-Mercer] started asking ‘What is your religion, do you believe in—are you a Christian? And that person would say, ‘Yeah.’ ” She continued, “He said: ‘Good. I’m going to send you to God. You’re going to see God.’ And then he’d just start shooting them.” Heu later stated that, although the shooter demanded information about his victims’ religions, their responses didn’t seem to bear any consequence—regardless of religious affiliation, the assailant inevitably shot his victims.
During the shooting, Harper Mercer reportedly gave an envelope to fellow student Mathew Downing and said, “Hey, kid with the glasses, you are the lucky one. I will not shoot you if you give this to the cops.” Mathew Downing was allowed to leave the room, and complied with the assailant’s orders. Inside the envelope was a flash drive, but authorities have not provided any information about what was contained on the drive.
Following this, Harper-Mercer exited the classroom and moved towards the entrance to Snyder Hall, where he engaged in a shootout with two law enforcement officers, Detective Sergeant Joe Kaney and Detective Todd Spingath of the Roseburg police force. One bullet lodged itself in the shooters abdomen, and Harper-Mercer retreated back into the classroom. The attack ultimately ended when the assailant laid down on the ground, and shot himself in the head.
The attack made national news, and a series of smaller gun-related incidents have taken place across the United States. As a result, serious questions about the importance of stricter gun-control legislation have been raised nationwide. President Obama stated in a recent press release his stance on the issue, “There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America. So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer.” With the upcoming presidential election, topics such as gun control are expected to be an important focus in U.S. political debates in the coming months.
The devastating events at Roseburg have been shocking for many people in the nation, and the potential political repercussions could have long-lasting effects in legislation. In his press release following the incident, Obama made it clear that despite the potential political issues, it is important to remember that this is a time for mourning and compassion for those affected by the tragedy in Oregon.