Christopher Sean “Chris” Harper-Mercer (July 26, 1989 – October 1, 2015) was enrolled in the introductory composition class where he shot his victims. He was born in Los Angeles County, California to Ian Mercer and Laurel Margaret Harper, and lived with his mother during the separation and divorce of his parents, who agreed to shared legal custody. Harper-Mercer continued to live with his mother and remained with her when she moved to Oregon for work. His father had not seen him for about two years following his son’s move out of state. Christopher Harper-Mercer joined the U.S. Army in 2008, but was discharged after five weeks for his failure to meet the “minimum administrative standards” of basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Officials linked to the investigation said that he was discharged as the result of a suicide attempt, but Army officials did not comment on this. In 2009, he graduated from Switzer Learning Center, a school for teenagers with learning disabilities or emotional issues. Laurel Harper was reportedly protective of him and tried to shield him from various perceived annoyances, some of them minor, in their neighborhood in Torrance, California. From early 2010 to early 2012, Harper-Mercer attended El Camino College in Torrance. Harper-Mercer maintained several Internet accounts, including one in which he described himself as mixed race. Media reports said he had an e-mail address linked to an account on a BitTorrent website. The last upload on the account, three days before the Umpqua shooting, was a documentary on the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. According to the Los Angeles Times, unnamed law enforcement sources described him as a “hate-filled” man with antireligious and white supremacist leanings, and with long-term mental-health issues. His mother, Laurel Harper, had previously written anonymously in an online forum that both she and her son had Asperger syndrome.
He and his mother moved to Winchester, Oregon in 2013 after she received a job there. There were fourteen legally purchased weapons kept in the apartment, and Christopher Harper-Mercer’s mother wrote online that she always kept full magazines in Glock pistols and an AR-15 rifle inside. The two often spent time together at shooting ranges, but Harper-Mercer was otherwise extremely isolated. Harper-Mercer had been placed on academic probation at Umpqua Community College for falling below a C average. A letter dated September 1 warned him that he could be suspended if he did not raise his grades. A UCC tuition bill due on October 6 noted that Harper-Mercer owed $2,021. On the day of the shooting, Harper-Mercer gave a survivor numerous writings showing he had studied mass killings, including the 2014 killing spree at Isla Vista, California. These expressed his sexual frustration as a virgin, animosity toward black men, and a lack of fulfillment in his isolated life. In them, he said “Other people think I’m crazy, but I’m not. I’m the sane one,” and that he would be “welcomed in Hell and embraced by the devil.” He also reportedly admired the perpetrator of the WDBJ shooting for the fame received, and wrote that: “A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day.”
At 10:38 a.m. PDT, the first 9-1-1 call was made from Snyder Hall on the school campus reporting gunfire. Students reported that the shooting began in Classroom 15, where English and writing classes are conducted. Christopher Harper-Mercer, who was a student in the writing class, entered the classroom and fired a warning shot. Some witnesses said he then forced fellow students to the center of the classroom. Before he opened fire on the other students, he deliberately spared one student’s life so that student could deliver a package from him to police. He forced this student to sit at the back of the classroom and watch as he continued shooting with two handguns (Glock 19 and Taurus PT24/7). ChristopherHarper-Mercer first shot the assistant English professor at point-blank range. He allegedly asked two students for their religion, shooting them after they gave him a response. Other witnesses said he asked if students were Christians, telling those who replied in the affirmative that they would go to heaven as he shot them, although one victim was agnostic and another was pagan. Some students were shot multiple times; one woman was struck several times in the stomach while trying to close a classroom door. One witness said he made a woman beg for her life before shooting her, shot another woman when she tried to reason with him and shot a third woman in the leg after she tried to defend herself with a desk. One victim, Sarena Dawn Moore, was killed while trying to climb back into a wheelchair at his orders. Two plainclothes detectives from the Roseburg Police Department were the first to respond to the scene. They arrived at the hallway of Snyder Hall at 10:44, six minutes after the first 9-1-1 call was received. Two minutes later, Harper-Mercer reloaded his handguns and leaned out of the classroom, firing several shots at the officers. They fired three shots in return, hitting him once in the right side. After two more minutes of shooting at the officers, the wounded Harper-Mercer retreated into the classroom and killed himself with a single shot to his head. None of the officers were injured.
- July, 26, 1989
- Los Angeles, California
- October, 01, 2015
- Roseburg, Oregon
Cause of Death
- suicide by gunshot