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Witnesses Describe Oregon Shooting; Sheriff Stand by Anti-Gun Control Position; New Information on Oregon Shooter; Obama Has Spoken 15 Times About Mass Shootings; Advocacy Groups Push for More Gun Control; Heroes Stepped into Line of Fire to Save Others; How Small- Town Hospital Was Able to Handle Oregon Victims. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 2, 2015 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're following two major stories today. First, brand-new information coming in about the mass shooting at an Oregon community college. Nine people are dead today. Stories of heroism and bravery, though, emerging from the horror, including one man who survived seven gunshots after his family says he rushed the gunman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hurricane Joaquin, a powerful category-4 storm. Extremely dangerous. It churns in the Atlantic. A new forecast out just one minute ago. Where will this storm make landfall?

Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.

BOLDUAN: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Witnesses describe, thinking at first, it was fireworks or even books dropping, but then they quickly realized unfolding in front of them was a horrific shooting rampage, four days into their school day. Now more disturbing details are coming out about what happened and why at Oregon's Umpqua Community College that left nine victims dead, nine others injured.

BERMAN: At this point, we do not know the identity of most of the victims. It is their stories that matter, that should and will be our focus when we learn them.

There is new information about the killer, 26 years old. He was armed with four guns as he entered classrooms, firing. The shooting rampage lasted about 10 minutes. That's judging from the time dispatchers received reports of shots fired to the moment that officers reported code 4, suspect down.

Witnesses say within those 10 minutes, he asked some of the victims about their religion.

This is the father of one wounded student.


STACY BOYLAN, FATHER OF WOUNDED STUDENT: This man had enough time -- I don't know how much time elapsed before he was able to stand there and start asking people one by one what their religion was. Are you a Christian, he would ask them? If you're a Christian, stand up. They would stand up. Good, because you're a Christian, you're going to see god in just about one second, and then he shot and killed them.


BERMAN: Our Ana Cabrera has more from Roseburg, Oregon.



ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Overnight, a massive candlelight vigil for the victims of Umpqua Community College's mass shooting.

Disturbing new details coming from a father, whose daughter was hit in the back by a bullet, describing how the gunman targeted those who said they were Christian.

BOYLAN: Are you a Christian, he would ask them? And if you're a Christian, stand up. And they would stand up. And he said, good, because you're a Christian, you're going to see god in just about one second. And then he shot and killed them. And he kept going down the line doing this to people.

CABRERA: Thursday morning, around 10:38 a.m., 911 dispatch receives the first calls for help.


DISPATCHER: The active shooter at UCC, 1140 Umpqua College Road. Someone is outside one of the doors, shooting through the door.


CABRERA: Oregon Police say the 26-year-old gunman was carrying body armor and loads of ammunition, enough for a prolonged gun fight, along with three pistols and one long rifle.

Entering a classroom, he opened fire, shooting a teacher at point- blank range, according to witnesses.

Students overheard the gunshots.

HANNAH MILES, WITNESS: It was rapid fire over and over and over again. You can hear the people -- you could hear them moving and crying.

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: I said to the teacher, we need to get out of here right now. Then we heard the second and third gunshots.

CABRERA: Within minutes officers swarmed the campus.


UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Exchanging shots with him. He's in a classroom.

DISPATCHER: Copy. Exchanging gunshots right now with a male. He's in the classroom on the southeast side of Snyder Hall.


CABRERA: The shooting began in Snyder Hall. It didn't end there. The shooter continuing his rampage into the science building. Casualties found in at least two different classrooms.


BERMAN: Our Ana Cabrera joins us now by phone.

We know so many people in that community are grieving just as many people asking questions about what can be done now.

CABRERA (voice-over): And that is the big question, not only why did this happen and how do you prevent this from happening to somebody else, some other community?

It's interesting because the sheriff, who's now taking a lead role in the investigation, at least the face of the investigation, and updating the media, has in the past been a staunch opponent of any new gun control legislation.

In fact, as recently as just a couple of years ago following Sandy Hook when legislation was moving its way through Congress, he himself, John Hanlin, the sheriff of Douglas County, he wrote a letter to Vice President Joe Biden, saying, regardless of what legislation was passed in Congress, he refused to necessarily uphold any new gun control laws.

And, in fact, he was just asked about his stance now that this is a situation that hits home this morning on "New Day" listen to his response.


[11:05:10] JOHN HANLIN, SHERIFF, DOUGLAS COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: My position on it has not changed.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: So you still believe that it's not about gun laws, it's not about uniform background checks, none of those things would help, sir?

HANLIN: Again, I want to stay focused on this investigation and the welfare of the community and the welfare of the families and the victims in this horrific incident. And I'm not going to waste the time today or any time in the real near future having the firearm debate.


CABRERA: Again, that was Sheriff John Hanlin, who is continuing to investigate exactly what led up to this shooting and what motivation the 26-year-old gunman may have had.

Again, the gun control debate is, again, front and center in our country right now. The president addressing the nation for the 15th time following a mass shooting since he's been president -- John?

BERMAN: Ana Cabrera, for us in Roseburg. Thanks so much, Ana.

BOLDUAN: Obviously, right now a huge question today as the investigation is very much under way as we speak, is why, the investigation into the shooter and what could possibly be the motive behind something as horrific as this is happening right now.

Let's -- for much more on that, let's go over to Deborah Feyerick, who has been following that and has many more details -- Deb?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're learning more about the shooter. Right now, it's just beginning to emerge as to who he was. Let's take a quick look about what we do know about him. First of all, 26-year-old Christopher Harper-Mercer. Investigators linked him to the college in two ways. First, an e-mail address to the college. Second, a college theater group in which he's listed as production assistant on an upcoming production. Also his mother lives just five miles from that campus, so he knows where it was.

Now, he does have a relatively small online profile, a footprint. What we do know, he's on a dating website. And his political views, he describes himself as conservative. Also he's religious but not spiritual. And his hobbies are Internet, movies, and also killing zombies, which appears to be a reference to some video game.

"The New York Times" quoting individuals there on the ground saying that he used to wear military-style clothing every day and that he had a very close relationship with his mother, even though he himself on his profile says that he was living in southern California. He had a lot of weapons. Three handguns, a long gun, a bullet proof vest, body armor as well as a lot of ammunition. You can see on some videos of forensic investigators they are simply picking up all those casings he left behind.

He was able to kill people in two different classrooms, two different buildings. He was online. He was blogging. One of those, he's talking about the gunman who killed those two reporters in Virginia. And he seems almost obsessed about, "they were alone and unknown one day," but then, quote, "when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. Seems the more people you kill, the more you're in the limelight."

This is somebody was seeking companionship, perhaps seeking relevancy. And his mother is quoted in one of the newspapers as saying he did have some mental issues. The family right now really dealing with this tragedy and how their son could have committed this horrible, horrible act -- Kate and John?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Deborah Feyerick, thanks so much. A lot more to learn. So many questions unanswered.

The massacre in Oregon, it also brings back many, many memories of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, at Sandy Hook Elementary School, when 20 first graders and six educators were gunned down in their classrooms. Since the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, more than 87,000 Americans have been killed by guns. That's according to a Massachusetts gun control group. An astounding number.

BERMAN: President Obama, he was at the White House last night, an angry address to the nation. He said Americans have become numb to gun violence. He has now spoken 15 times after mass shootings during his presidency.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've endured too many tragedies like this too many times.

We come together filled with sorrow for the 13 Americans we lost, with gratitude for the lives they led and the determination we honor them we carry on.

I've come here tonight as an American who like all Americans to pray with you today and will stand by you tomorrow.

And the federal government stands ready to do whatever's necessary to bring whoever's responsible for this heinous crime to justice.

[11:10:00] All of us are heartbroken and I offer my thoughts and prayers, from not only Michelle and myself but as the country as a whole.

Each time we hear the news, I act not only like a president but as a parent. I will do everything in my power as president to help.

The lives that were taken from us were unique. The memories their loved ones carry are unique, and they will carry them and endure long after the news cameras are gone.

Any shooting is troubling. Obviously, this reopened the pain of what happened at Fort Hood five years ago.

The country has to do soul search being this. This is becoming the norm and we take it for granted in ways that as a parent are terrifying to me.

The good news is I'm confident that the outpouring of unite and strength and fellowship and love across Charleston today indicates the degree to which those old vestiges of hatred can be overcome.


BERMAN: President Obama now saying thoughts and prayers are not enough. Joining us is Nicole Hockley, who lost her 6-year-old son in Newtown, Connecticut, now the president of Sandy Hook Promise, pushing for tougher gun control laws.

Nicole, thank you for being with us. As always, we're just very sorry about the circumstances in which we're talking to you.

What was your reaction yesterday when you first heard the news of what was going on in Oregon?

NICOLE HOCKLEY, PRESIDENT, SANDY HOOK PROMISE: I was going into a meeting right as I heard the news. And I tried immediately not to think about it, in honesty. That's impossible. I went into my meeting and I got 10 words out of my mouth before I burst into tears because I just so horribly know what that community's going through in what those families are going through.

BOLDUAN: Nicole, why do you try to not think about it?

HOCKLEY: Because it's so painful. It's -- it's just really impossible to understand how this continues to happen and the thoughts and the prayers, the anger is not enough. There's action. And after every incident, it's the same thing. We hear the same arguments, we need more guns, we need less guns, we need this policy or we need laxer policies. We need to change our acceptance of this. We need to re-sensitize ourselves to this. What I always wait to hear after every single shooting is the signs that were missed. Because there are always signs. Perhaps if we focused a little more on those and changed our behavior to how we hear those signs or read those signs and recognize those signs, maybe we can actually start stopping this violence before it happens and not have to get into this ridiculous fight over an inanimate object all the time that just frustrates and hurts.

BERMAN: One thing we've heard, from the Democratic governor of Oregon, now is not the time to bring up the discussion of how this happened. Now is not the time to talk about guns. What do you think about that?

HOCKLEY: Well, tell me, when is the time? If the president's had to come out in 15 times about a mass shooting in less than three years, if there are people continuing to die, every single day, when is the time? In the five or six days between a mass shooting? In the hours between one person killing another? The time is now. This isn't something we just put on the back burner and deal with another day. This is a problem we have in this country right now and it's something we need to deal with right now because it's only going to get worse.

BOLDUAN: Nicole, of course, there's a lot that isn't known yet about what happened in this shooting and what the motivation or circumstances were around this man who did this. We don't know if he got the gun legally. We do not know with certainty any existing mental health issues of this person. It does make me think, though, when I think about that, a message you sent to your supporters after this. You wrote to them, we have to pay attention to signs that someone has the potential to inflict harm on others, themselves or others. We have to intervene. We have to say something. We have to do something. Beyond gun laws, if that gets brought up again and people throw in the towel and say, nothing is going to change. When you write to your supporters to say something, to do something, are you talking about family?

[11:15:10] HOCKLEY: I'm talking about family. I'm talking about community. And I'm talking about our schools and our youth organization systems. Kids texting, messaging, Facebook posts, Instagram posts, on like forums. There are -- in mass shootings, in particular, there are almost always signs. But too often we don't take those signs seriously or he we don't know what to do with that information. And Sandy Hook Promise, we offer a training program called Say Something, and we go out and teach kids and their parents, how do you recognize those signs and what do you do about it. How do you take action? We know we've already averted at least one tragedy with our own training. We don't know much about this shooter yet. I've heard speculation about his online activity. I'm waiting for confirmed facts. I guarantee you, I guarantee you, there are -- he's going to have told someone about his act. Someone out there knew. We saw it in all the previous shootings. We're going to see it in this one, too. Someone could have made a difference if they had said something.

BERMAN: Nicole, in just a little bit we'll have Governor Mike Huckabee, Republican presidential candidate, on the show with us. He sent his prayers and thoughts to the victims in Oregon. Let's make that clear. But one thing he said after past shootings, Charleston, for instance, if the people in the church were armed, if they had guns inside, this wouldn't have happened. I think he said in schools, perhaps, if people had guns, this wouldn't happen. Is there a message you would like to send to Governor Huckabee?

HOCKLEY: I certainly wouldn't want to go to the same church or school as him or his family. And I believe in Oregon there is absolute permission to conceal carry a weapon. I'm sure there were probably students at that community college who were concealed carrying, and there's no such thing -- I refuse to believe that more guns is the answer. There are already over 300 million guns in this country. How many more do we need? How many people need to be armed? How many people will just die, either accidentally killing someone else or being mistaken for a perpetrator, if we just have everyone shooting guns everywhere? It's just -- it's a ridiculous notion with no evidence to back it up whatsoever.

BERMAN: Nicole Hockley, again, we appreciate your input. We're sorry.


BOLDUAN: We only talk to you around -- around these shootings. We always remember your beautiful son.

Thank you so much.

BERMAN: Thank you.

HOCKLEY: Thank you.

BERMAN: Coming up for us, we will speak to former Governor Mike Huckabee, Republican presidential candidate, how he now responds to what you heard from Nicole Hockley, and his reaction to the president's speech, talking about the need to creation gun violence now.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, we'll have so much more. We're going to try to talk about the victims, the little we know so far about the victims in this tragedy. We are hearing about some of them who have already been coming out as heroes, who stood up during those moments of terror, including pictures you're seeing here of an Army veteran, whose family says he rushed at the gunman. He was shot seven times.


[11:21:45] BERMAN: This morning, we're hearing stories of heroism. People who stepped into the line of fire, literally, to keep the Oregon massacre from being worse.

BOLDUAN: One is Chris Mintz, an Army veteran. You see pictures of him right there. He took several bullets trying to protect the lives of others, according to his family. You see him right there recovering in his hospital bed. Look at the smile on his face.

Jean Casarez is here with much more on his story.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A smile after being shot seven times.

BOLDUAN: It's amazing.

CASAREZ: His family just told us, shot seven times in the back, in the stomach, in both arms and both legs. The family is saying he has two broken legs.

This was a local guy. He went to high school in the area, graduated 2003. He was a football player. Then he went on to the U.S. Army, serving this country. He had gone back to college to get his college degree.

And as he was going to school yesterday, the college, he got a phone call from his dad and he said, it's your 6-year-old's son it's his birthday today. Tell him grandpa says happy birthday.

Well, he remembered that and his family explains more.


WANDA MINTZ, SURVIVOR'S AUNT: Tries to block the door from keeping the gunman coming in. Gets shot three times, hits the floor. Looks up at the gunman and says, it's my son's birthday today. Gets shot two more times.

SISTER OF SURVIVOR: He's going to have to learn to walk again, but he walked away with his life. That's more than so many other people did. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CASAREZ: Now, we do know that he has spoken with his cousin and our producer, Christie Baer (ph), has spoken with that cousin who said that he just saw him and that Chris didn't talk about himself when he was asked, how are you, he talked about everybody else, and he said, people died in this, and just started crying.

And we do wanted to tell people that the family has set up a GoFund me site because shot seven times, two broken legs, they're asking for any help.

And we're not getting a lot of names of the survivors or the victims, but this family stepped forward and they wanted to talk about Chris Mintz so we could know a little about him.

BERMAN: It's interesting. Chris Mintz didn't want to talk about Chris Mintz. Shows the bravery and heroism of this man.

CASAREZ: That's right.

BOLDUAN: He has a long recovery ahead of him. As his sister even said, he's got his life. What an amazing person.

Thanks for bringing the story to us.

BERMAN: Thanks, Jean.

BOLDUAN: From the time the shooting started, doctors and nurses had just minutes to prepare. This is a small community we're talking about here. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, will be joining us next with how they were able to handle this major trauma event so quickly.

BERMAN: Still ahead, Republican presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, says President Obama's comments after the Oregon shooting, they were, quote, "ignorantly inflammatory." We'll ask the former governor what he would do about gun violence in this country now, and what he would say to the families of the victims in Oregon.


[11:28:10] BOLDUAN: The small community in Oregon is still trying to get its hands around this tragedy that has rocked their home. There are some glimmers of good news among the shock and sadness. Hospital officials have announced a short time ago that some of the patients in their care are improving.

BERMAN: That is good news. One of them expected to go home today.

Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he's at Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg.

Sanjay, we know so little about the victims. What have you been learning? DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yeah, we did

hear this piece of good news, as you point out, that another patient expected to go home today.

I want to paint a little bit of a picture for you of what happened over the last several hours. I talked to the doctors who were on call at the time this all transpired. They found out about this over the scanners, and they were officially notified about ten minutes before patients started showing up. Very, very quickly things started to happen here.

It's a relatively small hospital in a relatively small town, so they had a lot to sort of manage quickly. They told me people who started just coming in, people who weren't on call, other doctors came in, retired doctors, doctors who weren't even practicing anymore, came in. That's the nature of these small towns. As a result, 10 patients came in. There are three now remaining in the hospital. Three have been -- three patients have been transferred to other hospitals. But the patients that are still here are expected to do well. One going to go home, probably later on today.

It's a little difficult to tell you just how emotional it is, though, in a small town. Everybody knows everybody. There's staff that had direct relationships with some of these patients.

I asked the chief medical officer about this. Take a listen.

KELLY MORGAN, CEO, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, MERCY MEDICAL CENTER: I think that the more difficult was the families coming in, and not knowing who was included, and who wasn't, who was involved in it. And I think that was the emotional trauma of trying to keep people together and get information out for them.

DR. JASON GRAY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, MERCY MEDICAL CENTER: Many of our staff, our pastoral staff, were just with the patients. You don't have to say anything.