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article imageOregonians flock to area churches after Roseburg college massacre

By Nathan Salant     Oct 5, 2015 in Crime
Roseburg - Southern Oregon residents flocked to religious services Sunday to mourn members of the local community college community who were gunned down by a student last week.
Ten people were killed and nine wounded last Thursday when the heavily armed student burst into his writing class at Umpqua Community College and opened fire.
More than 200 attendees stood at Garden Valley Church to hear vocalists sing "We Shall Not Be Shaken," a Christian ballad, and watch a slide show about the victims, according to the Reuters news service.
"For Roseburg, this was 9/11," Pastor Craig Schlesinger told his congregants, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.
Many attendees raised their hands, wiped away tears and embraced, Reuters said.
At Umpqua Unitarian Universalist Church across town, congregants cried, hugged and held hands as they sang "We Shall Overcome," a famous civil rights anthem though to have been derived from gospel music.
"Who are you now that this has happened?" the Rev. Annie Holmes asked the congregation, Reuters said.
"Of course, there's anger and fear and sadness and grief beyond description," she said.
Grief was the order of the day in Roseburg, a city of 22,000 in southwestern Oregon, even as new information emerged about the shooting.
Douglas County Sheriff John Hamlin revealed Saturday that medical examiners now believe the alleged shooter, Christopher Harper-Mercer, 26, who lived with his mother just outside Roseburg, killed himself after executing the teacher, Lawrence Levine, and methodically shooting his fellow students.
Authorities had initially said Harper-Mercer was killed by police officers arriving at the gruesome scene.
One of the victims told police that Harper-Mercer spared one fellow student to give an envelope to authorities that contained a computer flash drive, but an FBI spokesman refused to reveal the contents of the flash drive.
Another student who declined to give her name told authorities that Harper-Mercer told classmates that he would try to kill them painlessly and said he would be "joining" them in a minute or two, Reuters said.
That student also told police that Harper-Mercer shot one woman when she trying to climb back into a wheelchair he had ordered her out of.
"This gunman had really controlled the environment very well," a pastor who requested anonymity told Reuters.
That pastor was working with other area clergy to counsel victims and other residents traumatized by the mass shooting, Reuters said.
"He had people hit the ground, he was speaking very calmly as he was committing the act," the pastor recalled victims telling him.
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