UDPATE [6:53 PM]: The gunman in Thursday’s shooting at Umpqua Community College has been identified as 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer.
ROSEBURG, Ore. (CBS Seattle/AP) – At least 10 people were killed in a shooting at a community college in southwestern Oregon.
Earlier Thursday afternoon, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said 13 people were killed in the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg. However, Douglas County sheriff John Hanlin stated at a 5:00 pm news conference that he believed there were ten dead. The precise number of fatalities has not been disclosed.
Seven others were injured.
President Barack Obama made remarks on the tragedy on Thursday evening. He says the U.S. is becoming numb to mass shootings and that perpetrators have sickness in their minds.
“We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months,” Obama said at the news conference. “It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.”
Obama also called on lawmakers to step up with the lack of sufficient gun safety laws in the country.
“We have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths.”
The president said our thoughts and prayers are not enough to remedy the consequences of gun violence.
The first call about a shooting at the college in Roseburg came into the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office at 10:38 a.m.
In released emergency dispatch recordings, one officer is heard saying, “We’re exchanging shots with him … he’s in a classroom” and that “the suspect is down.”
“Officers engaged that suspect, there was an exchange of gunfire, and the shooter threat was neutralized,” Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said at a press conference.
No officers were wounded in the shootout.
The community college is a gun-free campus.
“Possession, use, or threatened use of firearms (including but not limited to BB guns, air guns, water pistols, and paint guns) ammunition, explosives, dangerous chemicals, or any other objects as weapons on college property, except as expressly authorized by law or college regulations, is prohibited,” the college’s security policy states.
Joe Olson, former president of the college, told The Associated Press the school has only one security officer on duty at a time, and that person isn’t armed.
He says last year, one of the biggest debates on campus was whether the school should have armed security officers. He says the college had three training exercises with local law agencies in the past two years, “but you can never be prepared for something like this.”
“I suspect this is going to start a discussion across the country about how community colleges prepare themselves for events like this,” Olson said.
Umpqua Community College has about 3,000 students.
Students and faculty members were being bused to the county fairgrounds, the sheriff’s office said.
“We locked our door, and I went out to lock up the restrooms and could hear four shots from the front of campus,” UCC Foundation Executive Director Dennis O’Neill told The News-Review.
Kortney Moore told The News-Review that she was in Snyder Hall when her teacher got shot in the head. The 18-year-old student said the gunman told people to get down on the ground. He then started to ask people to stand up to state their religion and then started shooting, according to Moore. She said she was lying on the ground with people who were shot.
Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg reported that it had received nine patients from the shooting, with more on the way.
A spokeswoman for the Oregon department that oversees community colleges in the state said she had not received any detailed information about the shooting.
“It’s extremely concerning and sad,” said Endi Hartigan, spokeswoman for the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission.
Sutherland High School Principal Justin Huntley said some of his former students were in the room where the shooting took place.
The school made counselors available for students.
“It’s a very somber day,” Huntley said. “You take some deep breaths and you just try to get through it.”
Roseburg Public Schools Superintendent Gerry Washburn said a large number of Roseburg High School students go straight to UCC after graduation.
“We are a small, tight community, and there is no doubt that we will have staff and students that have family and friends impacted by this event,” he said.
The rural town of Roseburg lies west of the Cascade Mountains in an area where the timber industry has struggled. In recent years, officials have tried to promote the region as a tourist destination for vineyards and outdoor activities.
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