Sheriff: Gunman who killed 9 at Oregon college committed suicide

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The gunman who opened fire at a rural Oregon community college, killing a teacher and eight students, committed suicide after an exchange of gunfire with officers, authorities said Saturday.

Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin told reporters the local medical examiner made that determination.

Authorities say loner Christopher Harper Mercer, 26, went on a rampage at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg Thursday, killing nine people in a writing class where he was enrolled and wounding seven others. Witnesses said the gunman specifically targeted Christians.

Hanlin said officers responded immediately to a report of shots being fired on the campus. He said two officers with the Roseburg police department arrived within five minutes and were joined by a Oregon state trooper.

He said two minutes later the officers told the dispatcher they had engaged the shooter.

The sheriff said two minutes after that “the dispatcher reports the shooter is down.”

The officers exchanged gunfire with the shooter who was “neutralized at that time,” Hanlin said without mentioning Mercer by name. He has said to mention the gunman by name would only give him the notoriety he was seeking.

As the press conference was unfolding, Mercer’s family issued a brief statement, saying “we are shocked and deeply saddened by the horrific events.”

“Our thoughts, our hearts and our prayers go out to all of the families of those who died and were injured,” their statement said.

Hanlin also revealed Saturday that officers searching Mercer’s apartment found another gun.

The recovered weapon brought to 14 the total number of guns Mercer had left behind after the shooting. Six of those guns were in Mercer's possession at the college, along with a flak jacket and five magazines of ammunition. The other weapons were found in his apartment.

Hanlin said an FBI behavioral analyst team was on the scene “to help us understand the why of this event.”

Mercer moved with his divorced mother to Oregon from California two years ago. He was booted from the Army after one month. On social media he expressed a fascination with the Irish Republican Army and frustration with traditional organized religion. He also tracked other mass shootings.

At the press conference Saturday, Hanlin would not comment on an Associated Press report that said Mercer left a package with a student to give to authorities.

“We are not prepared to say what he did in the classroom,” Hanlin said.

Hanlin choked up briefly as he offered sympathies to those most directly touched by the shooting.

He said he was referring to the two officers who stopped the gunman from killing dozens of others, and to shooting victim Chris Mintz “who by the reports charged the shooter and suffered multiple gunshot wounds."

He said his sympathies were also with the families of the victims.

“We consider your loved ones to be our heroes and they will never be forgotten,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.