Family of Oregon college shooting suspect speaks out in Tarzana

ByJory Rand and staff KABC logo
Friday, October 2, 2015
Family of Oregon community college shooting suspect speaks out
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The family of a man suspected of going on a deadly shooting rampage at Umpqua Community College in Oregon spoke out in Tarzana Thursday night.

TARZANA, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The family of a man suspected of going on a deadly shooting rampage at Umpqua Community College in Oregon spoke out in Tarzana Thursday night.

The suspect was identified as 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer. Authorities say he killed nine people and injured many more before dying in a shootout with police.

"Shocked, shocked is all I can say," Ian Mercer, the suspect's father, told reporters. "Obviously it's been a devastating day, devastating for me and my family...all I ask is please respect our privacy."

The shooting happened around 10:30 a.m. at the community college campus, located about 180 miles south of Portland. The gunman fired a shot into a classroom, striking a teacher in the head, before heading into another classroom.

According to witnesses, the suspect told people to stand up and state their religion before opening fire. Nine people were killed and at least seven were injured.

The suspect's stepsister, Carmen Nesnick, also spoke out on Thursday. She said she hadn't seen him since their parents married about one year ago.

"I'm shaking right now," said Nesnick. "He meant a lot to me. He was a nice guy, and he put everyone before himself...It doesn't sound right. All he ever did was put everyone before himself. He wanted everyone to be happy."

Mercer's stepsister went on to say that the news of his death and involvement in the shooting caused her mother to break down.

While Mercer would visit his father and this part of his family in Tarzana, he lived with his mother at an apartment complex in Torrance before moving to Oregon.

In Torrance, Mercer attended Switzer Learning Center, a continuation high school. In Oregon, he lived with his mother in an apartment a short distance from Umpqua Community College.

On Thursday night, old neighbors at the complex painted a picture of a shy, reserved young man who was familiar with guns.

"I did see him at the time leaving his apartment and coming home with what looked like gun cases, him and his mom both, and he actually did say that he used to go shooting at some range," said David Westly.

"He wore combat boots. Very distinctly I remember black combat boots and military uniform almost," said Bryan Clay.

Mercer had profiles on several social media platforms. On Myspace, there was a photo of him posing with a rifle and several others glorifying the Irish Republican Army.

On the dating website Spiritual Passions, Mercer listed among his hobbies the Internet and killing zombies. He said he's a conservative Republican who's not religious but spiritual, and is shy at first but warms up quickly.

In other social media profiles, Mercer supported gun rights and appeared to hold negative views of organized religion.

"He was just silent. He didn't really speak much," said Clay. "If you approached him, he kind of seemed hesitant."

Authorities said the suspect's motive for the shooting was still unclear.