A gunman opened fire at a community college in southwest Oregon on 1 October, killing nine people and wounding seven others before police shot him dead, authorities said, in the latest mass killing to hit an American campus. The suspect, Chris Harper-Mercer was slain in an exchange of gunfire with police in Snyder Hall at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg following the rampage shortly after 10.30am local time.
Cassie Welding, a student at Umpqua Community College, was in the classroom next door to where the shooting occurred and said she heard crying and "I love yous" before witnessing one student being shot. Welding says one of the students, another woman, ventured out of the classroom to see what was going on when she was shot.
"I did not see the gunman, but I witnessed her getting shot," said Welding, who along with other students went to the aid of the woman, even though the shooting had not stopped.
"So we get her inside, because the door was slightly open, and we still hear gunshots even when this is going on," said Welding, who described the scene as "horrific".
Another Umpqua student, McRae Kittleman, said he didn't know what was happening until his teacher came into the room.
"I hadn't heard about it up until my teacher had come running into the room in a very big panic, telling all the students – 20 plus – to come into a teacher's room in the back and hide, duck down, shut off all the lights, and don't make any noise," said McRae Kittleman. He said they remained hidden until a state trooper told them it was safe to leave the classroom.
The massacre in Roseburg, a former timber town in Umpqua River Valley, is the latest in a series of mass shootings at US college campuses, movie theatres, military bases and churches in recent years. It marked the deadliest attack since a shooting rampage in June at a South Carolina church that killed nine.
The killings have fuelled demands for more gun control in the United States, where ownership of firearms is protected by the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, and better care for the mentally ill. The college, which began its autumn term this week and serves more than 13,000 students, 3,000 of them full-time, said it would be closed until Monday.
A professor at the college said the community came together at a time of need. "You just never would think it would happen where you're at. I have students who've moved on to other schools, other states and it's hard for them to believe as well. But one thing, I spent some time down at the fairgrounds and to see the community come together, you know, everybody from people bringing down water, to taxi companies offering rides, to people offering counselling."