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Mass shooting shocks Oregon community college

Gunfire broke out at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, mid-morning on Thursday. Police confirmed that 10 people died, including the shooter. Ian Campbell of News Review offers an update from Roseburg and Judy Woodruff examines how campuses try to prevent attacks with S. Daniel Carter, director of 32 National Campus Safety Initiative.

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    The scenes are all too familiar — a mass shooting leaves a trail of death and disbelief. It happened today in Oregon, when a man started shooting in classrooms at a college. This evening police confirmed 10 people were killed and 7 wounded.

    William Brangham begins our coverage.


    Classes were well underway at Umpqua Community College when gunfire erupted mid-morning. The attack shattered the calm of the campus in Roseburg, about 180 miles south of Portland.

    Within minutes, the school went into lockdown, as police swarmed in to confront the gunman.

  • MAN:

    They're saying he shot them. He's in a classroom on the — that's going to be the southeast side of this hall.

  • WOMAN:

    Copy, Russert 17. Exchanging gunshots right now with him now. He's in the classroom on the southeast side of Snyder Hall.

  • MAN:

    Officers engaged that suspect. There was an exchange of gunfire. The shooter threat was neutralized and officers continued to sweep the campus looking for other threats.

    The shooter is deceased.


    Officials evacuated faculty, staff and students off campus to the county fairgrounds.


    I don't know what to feel right now. I'm terrified. I'm stressed out about it. I was so excited to start college here and it was going great for the first couple of days and then this happens and it's like I don't want to go back there for a long time.


    Elsewhere, small groups worried and waited and ambulances rushed the wounded to hospitals. The college remained closed as police checked buildings and geared up their investigation.


    Ian Campbell of the News Review in Roseburg has been talking with students today.

    I spoke with him by phone just moments ago.


    Ian Campbell, thank you for talking with us.

    What did these students tell you?

  • IAN CAMPBELL, News Review:

    I talked to a few students today on campus, one of which was inside of the classroom where the shooting occurred. And what she told me is that she first noticed gunshots coming through a nearby window. And then the shooter entered the classroom, first shot the professor in the head and then instructed the rest of the students and the people inside of the room to get on the ground.

    Shortly or immediately after, the shooter then kind of randomly or, in some order, instructed people to stand up one by one and state their religion. And the student doesn't necessarily remember or know which religion generated a positive response to the shooter and which generated a negative response.

    But the student does remember the shooter mentioning Christianity quite often.


    Did she get a look at him?


    She didn't. She did refer to the shooter as a male, but then immediately as — as, you know, connecting the dots between hearing gunfire and watching a man, you know, murder her professor, she — she ducked undercover, was — was surrounded by other students and individuals and had her face down for most of the time.


    And anything else descriptive about him or what he did or what he said?


    Not that — not that she had. Again, the — the main thing she heard was, you know, instructing students to stand up, state their religion and, you know, at times, there was corresponding gunfire. She didn't know which religions he was shooting for and which ones he wasn't. But that's what she had gleaned from the situation.


    Ian, how are the students dealing with all this?


    It's a tricky situation. When I — when I first got there, I arrived to the campus on kind of an external lawn to the campus where the police and — and local authorities had kind of been ushering students out in small groups.

    And on that campus, when I arrived, a lot of them were, you know, on the phone with their loved ones. Some were in tears. Others were hugging. You know, a lot of people were just kind of sitting by themselves staring off into space, trying to process what had happened.

    You know, it's — obviously, there are a bunch of mixed reactions. But I think in general, everyone was just so surprised with the — that this could even happen in the area.


    Impossible to imagine.

    Ian Campbell with the News Review in Roseburg, Oregon.

    We thank you.


    Thank you so much.


    School and college campuses across the country are grappling with how to prevent attacks like this one.

    I'm joined now by Daniel Carter.

    He's director of the VTV Family Outreach Foundation. It's a group formed by families of the victims of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech University in 2007.

    He leads that group's 32 National Campus Safety Initiative.

    Daniel Carter, thank you for being here.

    Your connection is that you advise these families of the victims of Virginia Tech. As we said, 2007, 32 students — people died. There were, what, 17 others wounded.

    This must sit — just seem awfully familiar to you.

    DANIEL CARTER, DIRECTOR, 32 NATIONAL CAMPUS SAFETY INITIATIVE: It's an all too common tragedy. And our thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected. And, you know, we were created to help prevent and respond to these types of tra — crisis situations. So, you know, our governmental, with the 32 National Campus Safety Initiative is to empower colleges and universities to be better equipped to prevent and respond to these types of situations.


    What are colleges in general doing across the country now that they weren't doing before Virginia Tech?


    The two biggest changes involve multi-disciplinary threat assessment teams, where if someone is of concern, they can be reported and assessed by mental health professionals, law enforcement professionals, for example.

    And also, you have emergency management protocols where you have emergency notification systems, and you have a rapid response by law enforcement.

    And that's one of the keys is there needs to be connectivity between the campuses, both large and small, and if they don't have their own law enforcement, connectivity with local law enforcement so that their security personnel have routinely drilled and trained with local law enforcement.


    Is the — are there a uniform set of — of questions that college officials, faculty, and even students are — are to think about as they assess the people around them to determine who's a risk and who isn't?


    Well, I think trust your gut. That goes all to uncommon — you know, it's all too — it's often dismissed. But trust your gut and check whether or not the college has a place to report that.


    And if someone is acting unusual?

    I mean is it as simple as that?


    If you see something, say something. It may sound hokey, but it is as simple as that. And you can report it to the authorities and they should take a look at it.


    How many schools are following the kind of directions that you just described?


    Most large — larger four year residential colleges and universities have adopted the threat assessment and emergency management models. We are just now beginning to explore community colleges, so I don't know how many of them are. But I know that they had a lockdown protocol which was followed and they had an emergency notification protocol, which was followed.


    What more, Daniel Carter, do you think needs to be done to prevent these kinds of awful things from happening?


    I think we need to do a better job of making sure threat assessment teams are established on every campus in this country, that they're well publicized and that colleges and universities have emergency response procedures in place and that they partner with local first responders in our 32 National Campus Safety Initiative online at 32ncsi.org has guidance for how colleges and universities can accomplish this, as well as what students and their families need to look for.


    So it is an ongoing thing?


    It is. We've come a long way in the last eight years, but we have a long way to go.


    Daniel Carter, we thank you very much.


    Thank you.


    Tonight, there are reports the gunman has been identified as 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer. Law enforcement officials said he lived in the Roseburg area.

    Earlier this evening at the White House, President Obama addressed the deadly shooting at the community college in Oregon.


    As I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough.

    It's not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted some place else in America next week or a couple of months from now.

    We don't yet know why this individual did what he did. And it's fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds, regardless of what they think their motivations may be.

    But we are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.

    You know, earlier this year, I answered a question in an interview by saying the United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient common sense gun safety laws even in the face of repeated mass killings. And later that day, there was a mass shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. That day.

    Somehow, this has become routine. The reporting is routine, my response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it. We've become numb to this. We talked about this after Columbine and Blacksburg, after Tucson, after Newtown, after Aurora, after Charleston. It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.

    And what's become routine, of course, is the response of those who oppose any kind of common sense gun legislation.

    Right now, I can imagine the press releases being cranked out. We need more guns, they'll argue, fewer gun safety laws.

    Does anybody really believe that?


    A clearly angry President Obama, just moments ago at the White House.

    He also pointed out, he said, scores of responsible gun owners favor measures of gun control. And he also said that the U.S. spends trillions of dollars preventing terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, but he said Congress, meanwhile, refuses even to permit collecting data on mass shootings in his country.

    We'll be back in a moment.

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