Matthew Downing, a student who survived last week’s shooting at Umpqua Community College (UCC), has given a harrowing, first-hand account of his ordeal, describing shooter Chris Harper-Mercer giving him an envelope to give to police and calling him “the lucky one,” CNN is reporting.
On October 1, 26-year-old Harper-Mercer, a UCC student, walked into a classroom at the college’s Snyder Hall and began shooting. Reports would later emerge that the shooter asked students if they were Christians, killing those who answered in the affirmative, and shooting in the leg those who answered “no.” He would wind up killing nine people and injuring seven others, before turning his gun on himself.
Downing describes that Thursday morning, according to KPTV (Portland), as no different from any other — he went to school, turned in a paper that was due, and sat down for class.
“It was about 30 or 40 minutes into the class when I heard a couple of shots fired. I couldn’t hear anything when [Harper-Mercer] walked in because my ears were ringing so badly. When I saw the gun when he walked in the first thought in my head was, ‘this can’t be real.’”
Harper-Mercer then ordered everyone into the center of the classroom.
“The Lucky One”
For reasons known only to Harper-Mercer, the shooter then singled out Matt Downing to survive the shooting, on two conditions. First, he wanted Downing to be the one to give an envelope to the police (it would later be learned, according to ABC News, that the envelope contained a USB drive and some papers, all describing the shooter’s frustrations at his social isolation, and his fascination with other mass shootings). Second, he wanted Downing to witness what he (Mercer) was about to do.
“He then put his backpack on the front desk and pulled out an envelope and said that there is a flash drive in this and whoever survives this should give it to the police. He looked directly at me and said hey kid with the glasses you are the lucky one, I will not shoot you if you give this to the cops.”
Harper-Mercer then proceeded to methodically shoot students, with a certain zeal toward targeting those who were religious.
“The shooter then asked one of the other students to stand up and when he did asked him if he was religious. The student said he was Christian and was shot… One of the girls that was lying near the front of the class then said that she was sorry for whatever happened to him and for whatever she had done wrong. The shooter then said that he bets she was and shot her.”
By the time Downing had witnessed several of his classmates murdered in cold blood in front of his eyes, the police showed up. Knowing his shooting spree was up, Mercer sat down in the corner of the classroom and shot himself in the head.
Matt Downing will live with the events of that day for the rest of his life, but, as he said in his statement, he hopes his words will inspire others to live lives worth living.
“The final thing I want to add is that I and everybody else should get from this is that any day could be your last. You don’t want anybody’s last memory of you to be a bad one so everybody needs to take it upon themselves to just be a lot nicer to people.”
[Image courtesy of: Getty Images/Scott Olson]