Authorities say the gunman who killed nine people at an Oregon community college killed himself inside a classroom after two plainclothes officers shot and wounded him.
Douglas County District Attorney Rick Wesenberg said at a news conference Wednesday that Detective Sgt. Joe Kaney and Detective Todd Spingath, both of Roseburg police, were the first on scene. They traveled to the campus from five miles away where they were working on a case. When they arrived at Umpqua Community College, they heard a volley of gunfire and ran toward the shots. Two Oregon State Police troopers also responded.
They spotted 26-year-old Christopher Harper-Mercer in the doorway of Snyder Hall at 10:44 a.m. He immediately fired at the officers, who were in plainclothes and weren't wearing bulletproof vests. Both officers tried to gain a better vantage point, aware that there were at least 35 students in one of the classrooms that could be hit by their shots, officials said at Wednesday's news conference.
Kaney and Spingath both saw a muzzle flash from Harper-Mercer's gun. Wesenberg said the officers returned fire, shooting three rounds, one of which struck Harper-Mercer in the right side. The other two went into the entrance wall of Snyder Hall near his location.
Once Harper-Mercer was wounded, he went back into the classroom and shot himself at the front of the room.
"I want everyone to know the selfless acts these officers made in responding to the scene," a statement from Wesenberg reads. "The officers had little regard for their personal safety and saved many people that day with their heroic acts. Sgt. Kaney and Detective Spingath used their training and discipline to determine the best time to take a shot at the shooter, and once the suspect engaged the police officers, he did not shoot another student. These men saved lives this day."