ROSEBURG, Ore. — A shooter described as a 20-year-old man opened fire on a rural community college campus in Oregon on Thursday morning, killing 10 people and injuring seven others, authorities said.
The victims would not be identified for at least a day due to the ongoing investigation, County Sheriff John Hanlin said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
The lone gunman was killed following an exchange of fire with police, Hanlin had said during an earlier a news conference. No officers were believed to be injured, he added.
Hanlin said it was too soon to know if anyone else was involved in the shooting. In addition, he said authorities were not ready to comment on the gunman’s motiviation.
In Washington, a visibly frustrated President Obama offered prayers for the victims and their families and quickly pivoted to repeat his call for stricter gun safety laws. “We’re going to have to change our laws,’’ he said in a statement from the White House. “And this is something I cannot do by myself.’’
The scene was chaotic at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg. Ambulances ferried victims to local hospitals, and students reported on social media that they had been trapped inside classrooms.
The shooting was first reported before 10:40 a.m. local time (1:40 p.m. EDT), the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. Students and faculty were evacuated from campus to the county’s fairgrounds, the sheriff’s office said.
Jasmyne Davis, 19, was in class when the gunfire began. She said she heard one shot, followed by a 30-second pause, before she heard an argument and eight more gunshots from the classroom next door.
Two students ran out the door of her classroom, but a female student who tried to run out was shot in the right arm, Davis said. “Close the door!” the student yelled as she fell back into the classroom.
Danny Medak, 20, a basketball player at Umpqua, said he heard a loud noise, a pause and then a round of gunshots.
“I’ve lived in Douglas County my whole life and I never thought I’d see anything like this,” said Ryan Rundell, 18.
After being released, they boarded a bus for the 13-minute drive to the Douglas County Fairgrounds, where Red Cross volunteers handed out food and water.
Kenneth Ungerman, 25, a Navy veteran and student at the college, was just outside of Snyder Hall when the shooting started. Ungerman said he and a National Guard recruiter heard the pop of gunshots. “We’re both veterans. We know what a gunshot sounds like,” Ungerman said.
He added that the shooter was walking toward Snyder Hall on the left side of the building. “It looked like a male. I saw him with a handgun. He was shooting outside at the windows of Snyder Hall,” Ungerman recounted. According to Ungerman, the man was wearing a dark shirt and jeans.
As 15 to 20 shots rang out, students began running out of the right side of the hall, yelling: “There’s a shooter! Run, run! Get out of there!”
“We got underneath my jeep, rolled on top, and took off,” Ungerman said. They stopped at the entrance to the campus to stop traffic.
The News-Review newspaper in Douglas County quoted a student, Kortney Moore, as saying the shooter had asked people their religion before opening fire. Moore could not be immediately reached for comment.
The school will be closed Friday, as its campus remains an active crime scene, interim president Rita Cavin said during a news conference Thursday.
“Today was the saddest day in the history of the college,” Cavin said.
Federal authorities joined officials from Oregon in swarming the rural community college, located about three hours south of Portland. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrived in the morning, and additional agents were also being dispatched. The FBI field office in Portland also said it was sending agents to the scene.
Students were told to stay in locked-down classes after the gunfire. Rundell said he was told to stay for about two hours. Students were allowed to leave after being told the gunman was dead.
Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg said that the hospital had received 10 patients from the shooting. PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend, a hospital about 70 miles north of the school, said it had three female patients, one in critical condition and the other two in serious condition.
During a series of news conferences Thursday afternoon, officials cautioned that it was still relatively early and confirmed few details.
“These scenes are very dynamic and they change,” said Richard Evans Jr., superintendent of the Oregon State Police. “Our number one priority is making sure that all victims are safe.”
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Department said shortly before 3 p.m. local time that police had swept the campus for any additional threats and deemed it secure.
Umpqua, one of 17 community colleges in Oregon, has about 2,000 students and about 200 full- and part-time faculty members. Federal data suggest Umpqua is a quiet campus; the only crimes reported there in recent years have been an occasional burglary and, in 2013, an aggravated assault.
Gov. Kate Brown (D) on Thursday afternoon ordered flags flown at half-staff through sunset Friday in response to the shooting.
“Today is heartbreaking for Umpqua Community College, the greater Roseburg community, and all of Oregon,” Brown said in a statement. “My heart is heavy as we continue to learn more about today’s tragic events. While it is still too early to know all of the facts, the effects of an incident such as this one are long-lasting. Please join me in keeping the victims and their families, as well as first responders, in your thoughts.”
The rampage was the latest in a series of mass shootings that have produced national revulsion, even as they have left Republicans and Democrats divided over whether the violence should lead to stricter gun laws. The campus shootings on Thursday came about three months after nine people were gunned down at a historic African American church in Charleston, S.C.
School shootings have figured prominently in this series of tragedies, including the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, and the deaths of 20 children in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Berman and Markon reported from Washington. Susan Svrluga, Abby Phillip, and Nick Anderson also contributed to this report. Hoyt is a freelance writer.