At least 10 people have been killed in a shooting rampage at an Oregon college that sent TV news reporters scrambling to piece together sketchy information emanating from Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore.
The 26-year-old male gunman, who has been identified as Chris Harper Mercer, was killed after a confrontation with police, according to local law enforcement officials According to ABC affiliate KATU-TV Portland, Oregon State Police said that 20 people were injured in the attack.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown appeared shaken as she expressed “profound dismay and heartbreak at this tragedy. … We are holding the community of Douglas County in our hearts today.”
The shootings began to unfold at 10:38 a.m. PT in a building that houses science facilities on the college’s large campus in the logging community situated in the south-central region of the state, about 179 miles south of Portland.
The campus was evacuated, with students and faculty taken by bus to nearby Douglas County Fairgrounds, and remained on lockdown Thursday afternoon. Umpqua is said to have about 3,000 full-time students.
Within minutes of the attack there were horrifying first-hand accounts of the shooting streaming out via social media and Twitter — reports of students and teachers huddling together in classrooms in terror and students waving other students away from the campus as they tried to head to class.
The Oregon shootings join a long line of mass shootings that spark saturation media coverage. The rampage on the campus of Virginia Tech University in 2007 remains the worst mass shooting in the nation’s history, with 33 left dead. In December 2012, the nation was rattled by the slayings of 26 people, 20 of them children, at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Columbine, Colo., has become synonymous with the mass shootings carried out at a high school there by two students in 1999 that left 13 dead and more than 20 wounded.
Movie theaters have also become the site of attacks. In July 2012, James Holmes opened fire at an Aurora, Colo., multiplex, killing 12 and wounding 70 during a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” In August he was sentenced to life in prison. In July, a gunman shot three people in a in Lafayette, La., theater that was screening the comedy “Trainwreck.”
Gun violence came shockingly close to home for TV news reporters in August when two employees of CBS affiliate WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, Va., were shot to death during a live broadcast by a former station employee.
The remote site of the Oregon shootings — far removed from the state’s urban center in Portland — made it harder for the national news networks to get immediate live coverage of the events. Even network affiliate stations with news operations in the larger town of Eugene were still 70 miles away from Roseburg. As such, TV news networks scrambled to contact students, law enforcement and others by phone and online to gather information.
The news coverage on MSBNC and others followed a somber ritual of talking heads decrying the easy availability of guns and the lack of mental health services for those who might be identified as potential threats.
“To have a mass shooting of this magnitude in Oregon is positively unspeakable to us,” Oregon’s attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, told MSNBC.