ROSEBURG, Ore. (AP) — The gunman who opened fire in an Oregon college shot one classmate after saying he could save her life by begging, and others were killed after being told to crawl across the floor, according to relatives of students in the classroom.
However, Christopher Sean Harper-Mercer spared a student and gave the “lucky one” something to deliver to authorities, according to the mother of a student who witnessed Thursday’s rampage.
Authorities have not disclosed whether they have an envelope or package from Harper-Mercer, who Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said Saturday killed himself as officers arrived. But a law enforcement official said a manifesto of several pages had been recovered.
Bonnie Schaan, the mother of 16-year-old Cheyeanne Fitzgerald, said she was told by her 16-year-old daughter that the gunman gave someone an envelope and told him to go to a corner of the classroom.
Harper-Mercer said the person “`was going to be the lucky one,”‘ Schaan told reporters outside a hospital where her daughter’s kidney was removed after she was shot.
Relatives of other survivors of the shooting that killed nine also said Harper-Mercer gave something to a student in the class.
Pastor Randy Scroggins, whose 18-year-old daughter Lacey escaped without physical injuries, said she told him that the gunman called to a student, saying: “`Don’t worry, you’re the one who is going to survive.”‘
Harper-Mercer then told the student that inside the shooter’s backpack was “all the information that you’ll need, give it to the police,” Scroggins said, citing the account by his daughter.
Scroggins also said his daughter heard the gunman tell one victim he would spare that person’s life if the student begged, then shot the begging victim anyway.
Lacey Scroggins also spoke about students being ordered to crawl to the middle of the room before being shot. Scroggins said his daughter survived because she was lying on the floor and partially covered by the body and blood of a fellow student. The gunman thought Lacey Scroggins was dead as well, stepped over her and shot someone else.
Randy Scroggins received a phone call from that student’s mother while speaking with The Associated Press.
“He saved my girl. I will forever call your son my hero,” he said of 20-year-old Treven Anspach. He told the man’s mother he would mention her son during his Sunday church service and ask for prayers. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
Janet Willis said her granddaughter Anastasia Boylan was wounded in the Thursday attack and pretended to be dead as Harper-Mercer kept firing, killing eight students and a teacher.
Willis said she visited her 18-year-old granddaughter in a hospital in Eugene, where the sobbing Boylan told her: “`Grandma, he killed my teacher!”‘
Boylan also said the shooter told one student in the writing class to stand in a corner, handed him a package and told him to deliver it to authorities, Willis said.
The law enforcement official who disclosed the existence of the manifesto did not reveal its contents but described it as an effort to leave a message for law enforcement.
The official is familiar with the investigation but was not authorized to disclose information and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The official said the document was left at the scene of the shooting but wouldn’t specify how authorities obtained it.
Boylan, a freshman at Umpqua Community College, also told her grandmother the gunman asked students about their faith.
“If they said they were Christian, he shot them in the head,” Willis said, citing the account given by her granddaughter.
However, conflicting reports emerged about Harper-Mercer’s words as he shot his victims.
Stephanie Salas, the mother of Rand McGowan, another student who survived, said she was told by her son that the shooter asked victims whether they were religious but did not specifically target Christians.
Salas said it was like telling the victims “you’re going to be meeting your maker.”
Salas said the gunman told victims “`this won’t hurt very long”‘ before shooting them.
Law enforcement officials have not given details about what happened in the classroom. However they released a timeline that shows police arrived at the scene six minutes after the first 911 call and exchanged gunfire with the shooter two minutes later.
Harper-Mercer was enrolled in the class, but officials have not disclosed a possible motive for the killings. In a statement released by authorities, his family said they were “shocked and deeply saddened” by the slayings.
The dead ranged in age from 18 to 67 in the attack in Roseburg, a rural timber town about 180 miles south of Portland.
Harper-Mercer wore a flak jacket and brought at least six guns and five ammunition magazines when he went to the campus that morning.
Oregon’s top federal prosecutor said the shooter used a handgun when he opened fire.
Several years ago, Harper-Mercer moved to Oregon from Torrance, California, with his mother Laurel Harper.
Harper-Mercer’s social media profiles suggested he was fascinated by the Irish Republican Army and frustrated by traditional organized religion.
Scroggins said he was grateful his daughter survived Harper-Mercer’s attack.
“There’s been a lot of emotion,” he said. “But others don’t get their children back.”
Contributing to this report are Associated Press writers Jonathan J. Cooper and Rachel La Corte in Portland; and Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho.