Melinda Benton is an associate professor teaching in Humanities and Social Science and an adviser for student media at Umpqua Community College (UCC). She was 56 at the time of the UCC school shooting.
Right: Gallery of images
Images provided by Melissa Benton
Jemelene Wilson is a writer, speaker, listener living in Oregon. Her ministry to “Live gently, love passionately” is her motivation to engage in disaster relief, pastoral work and writing about faith, hope, love and food. Her piece “Dear World, From Roseburg” was originally published on her blog on October 3, 2015, two days after the shooting, and received world-wide readership.
On October 1, 2015, at 10:38 a.m. the first 9-1-1 call came in from Snyder Hall. Students reported a gunman fired a shot in Classroom 15. Upon entering, 26-year old Harper-Mercer fired a warning shot, where students reported he gathered them in the center of the classroom. The assistant English teacher, Lawrence Levin, was shot first, and then he shot his classmates as they begged for their lives. Six minutes after the initial 9-1-1 call, Roseburg Police Department responded. The shooter engaged in a short shootout with officers before committing suicide.
Before the shooting began, he’d spared one student’s life so they could deliver a package to authorities. Authorities didn’t disclose whether they had such a package, but law enforcement officials noted a manifesto was recovered, perhaps suggesting he might’ve been depressed.
Some reports stated the shooter allegedly asked for the religions of his classmates before he shot them, suggesting a hate crime. Even the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) addressed claims the shooting was an Anti-Christian Hate Crime in their blog post, “Plumbing the Depths: Were the Umpqua Shootings an Anti-Christian Hate Crime?” (October 23, 2015): “Hate and resentment, Harper-Mercer thus had in full measure. But anger alone does not define a hate crime. Was his attack directed against Christians or against people with religious beliefs? The evidence that has so far emerged to support such a proposition is not very strong. Harper-Mercer appears to have stored up anger against society in general—and when he unleashed his deadly fury, he spared neither Christian nor non-Christian, neither the religious nor the agnostic.”
In an interview with police on October 1, 2015, Laurel Harper, the shooter’s mother, said her son was “born angry, pretty much.” Harper added, “I know that he, he had to have been lonely. He was alone, and he was a loner, and he took, it was difficult for him to commit to people, and, uh, I always felt like, you know, he was just on the outside looking in.”