Speed Reads

Umpqua Community College shooting

Oregon shooter was a 'good kid' or 'not a friendly type of guy' — depending on whom you ask

Umpqua Community College shooter Chris Harper Mercer, 26, who opened fire in a lecture hall and killed nine people on Thursday before he was killed in a confrontation with law enforcement, was labeled by those in his life as either a "good kid" or "not a friendly type of guy," depending on whom you asked.

A native of Torrance, California, The New York Times writes that Mercer was described by former neighbors as being "a reclusive and seemingly fragile young man with a shaved head and dark glasses who seemed to recoil from social interaction." Others said he was withdrawn, wore the same outfit everyday, and was "fiercely protected" by his mother, Laurel Harper, with whom he shared a one-bedroom apartment.

Mr. Mercer's mother sought to protect him from all manner of neighborhood annoyances, former neighbors in Torrance said, from loud children and barking dogs to household pests. Once, neighbors said, she went door-to-door with a petition to get the landlord to exterminate cockroaches in her apartment, saying they bothered her son.

"She said, 'My son is dealing with some mental issues, and the roaches are really irritating him,'" Julia Winstead, 55, said. "She said they were going to go stay in a motel. Until that time, I didn't know she had a son." [The New York Times]

Others described Mercer as at least outgoing enough to yell at neighbors from his balcony. "He was not a friendly type of guy," said Bronte Hart, who lived below Mercer. "He did not want to have anything to do with anyone."

But Carmen Nesnick, Mercer's stepsister, knew a different side of him. "All he ever did was put everyone before himself," she said. "It doesn't sound right." Jeva Lange