Reliving the Oregon gunman’s chilling reign of terror


Marcus Yam/LA Times

Heidi Wickersham, left, wipes away her tears while consoling her sister, Gwendolyn Wickersham, center, a UCC student who is grieving for her creative writing mentor, the slain Lawrence Levine, 67, a Umpqua Community College mass shooting victim, during candlelight vigil at a memorial service at Riverbend Park in Winston, Ore., on Saturday, Oct. 3.

ROSEBURG, Ore.  — Lacey Scroggins had just looked up at the clock _ it was 10:27 a.m. _ wondering when class would end. A few minutes later, a fellow student, Christopher Harper-Mercer, walked in. Even though it was the fourth day of school she recognized him, a talkative young man, not mean or aggressive from what little she knew of him.

Then she heard a pop and shattering glass. Then a gunshot. Lacey looked up and couldn’t see her teacher. Larry Levine was down.
Harper-Mercer had just begun his 10-minute reign of terror inside Writing 115 that would leave eight students and the teacher dead and nine others wounded _ the latest link in the nation’s grim chain of mass shootings, this one inside an English classroom at Umpqua Community College.

The gunman asked one student to stand up, asked him if he was a Christian, and then fired. He did the same to another victim, said Randy Scroggins, who on Saturday recounted his daughter’s horrifying narrative from the porch of his Roseburg home.

Harper-Mercer, a 26-year-old Army washout, identified one student as “lucky” and handed him a package, telling him to turn it over to police, Scroggins said.

He fired shots into the ceiling and ordered students to the get on the floor in the center of the classroom — and he began shooting.
Lacey felt someone roll on top of her. It was Treven Taylor Anspach, 20, a former high school classmate. She watched his blood pool on her and onto the floor as the gunman shot a student next to her.

Harper-Mercer told one student he would spare her if she begged for her life. She did. He shot her anyway.

After the police arrived, she heard the shooter say, “I’m done — you got me — I’m finished,” her father said.

The chilling account came as authorities announced on Saturday that Harper-Mercer had killed himself. Officials had earlier said he had died in a gunfight with officers.

Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said authorities also recovered an additional weapon during the search of Harper-Mercer’s apartment, bringing to 14 the number of guns found _ six at the school and the rest at his home, Hanlin said.

Investigators are combing through a trove of information in their drive to understand the shooter’s background and determine a motive, Hanlin said.

They are conducting hundreds of interviews with witnesses and those who knew Harper-Mercer, described by law enforcement sources as a hate-filled young man who had long struggled with mental health issues and had anti-religion, anti-government leanings.

Authorities also released their own reconstruction of the 10 deadly minutes.
10:38: The first call to 911.
10:39: Dispatch reports a “shooter in the science building.”
10:40: College buildings go on lockdown.
10:42: More reports of an “active shooter.”
10:44: The first three law enforcement officers arrive.
10:46: Gunfire is exchanged with suspect.
10:48: “Suspect down,” dispatch reports.

On Saturday, one mother spoke of how her daughter lived through those 10 minutes.

Only 16 years old, Cheyanne Fitzgerald had graduated from high school early and aspired to be a nurse. Thursday was her fourth day of class as a college student.

The shooter asked Cheyanne “what her religion was,” said Bonnie Schaan, her mother. When the teenager did not respond, he shot her below the shoulder blade, the bullet puncturing her lung and lodging into her kidney.

When the gunman ordered students to get in the middle of the room, Cheyanne couldn’t move. So she played dead _ and managed to send out a text message, even posting it to Facebook.

“The (expletive) shot me in the back,” the message said.

“Her recovery is going to be long, but we’re going to get there,” said Schaan, adding that her daughter’s kidney had been removed and that she was in intensive care.

Harper-Mercer’s family released a statement through authorities on Saturday.

“We are shocked and deeply saddened by the horrific events that unfolded on Thursday, October 1. Our thoughts, our hearts and our prayers go out to all of the families of those who died and were injured,” the statement said.

Ian Mercer, the gunman’s father, who spoke before knowing a 14th weapon had been found, questioned how his son was able to amass an arsenal that included handguns, a rifle and a shotgun.

“How on earth could he compile 13 guns? How can that happen, you know? They talk about gun laws; they talk about gun control. Every time something like this happens they talk about it and nothing happens,” he said in an interview with CNN from his Tarzana, Calif., home. “If Chris had not been able to get hold of 13 guns, it would not have happened.”

Harper-Mercer lived most of his life in the Los Angeles area with his mother, and during his high school years attended the Switzer Learning Center in Torrance, which specializes in dealing with students with special needs, learning disabilities and emotional issues.

A former classmate, Jane Ortiz, 22, said she remembered his shaved head, dark-frame glasses and proclivity for wearing military-style clothing. He was a “quiet guy and socially awkward … . You’d say hi to him and it would take him a second to respond and say hello.”

In Roseburg, Lacey Scroggins and her family think of Anspach. She came home covered in his blood. Anspach, who was the son of a firefighter and had hoped to become a paramedic, was among the dead. Her family believes that he saved her life.

After Harper-Mercer was dead, Scroggins, who is studying nursing and wants to be a surgeon, took the scarf off her neck and tied it around another student’s injury, and helped at least one other student, her father said.

Scroggins talked with Anspach’s mother Saturday. Both were in tears.

“She was grateful to know her son was a hero in many, many people’s lives, and Treven will always, always be our hero,” Randy Scroggins said. “I asked her, ‘What I can do for you?’

“‘Make sure you hug your daughter every day of your life,'” she told him, “a request we will gladly do.”