Updated at 2:46 p.m. on Thursday
Up to 10 people were reported killed and 20 wounded when a 20-year-old gunman opened fire inside a rural community college in the U.S. state of Oregon on Thursday, as officials said the shooter had been “neutralized.” Local sheriff John Hanlin confirmed at a press conference Thursday afternoon that the shooter is deceased after a gun battle with police, although he did not offer further details.
Authorities said the school shooting took place in classrooms within the science building at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg. The gunman reportedly shot his victims methodically and moved from one classroom to the next.
Between seven and 10 people were killed and at least 20 injured, local news network KATU quoted Oregon State Police Lieutenant Bill Fugate as saying. CNN, citing local officials, said one woman was shot in the chest.
U.S. President Barack Obama was briefed on the situation in Roseburg, and asked to be updated as it unfolds, a U.S. official said.
The college was immediately placed on lockdown as firefighters, police and concerned parents rushed to the site. Douglas County fire Marshall Ray Shoufler said firefighters had evacuated 11 wounded people from the college, of whom two had died.
He said there were “multiple patients in multiple classrooms” and a triage center was set up to evacuate the most seriously injured.
Shoufler described Roseburg as a small, close-knit rural community with many locals attending the college which caters to some 3,300 students.
“Most of us have relatives taking classes here,” he said. “Pretty much everybody knows everybody type scenario.
“So something like this affects many, many, many people.”
School shooting ‘sounded like fireworks’
Local resident Marilyn Kittelman, whose 17-year-old son attends the college, said he texted her as the tragedy unfolded while he hid in his classroom in a nearby building.
Lorie Andrews, who lives nearby and whose children graduated from the college, said she heard shots that sounded like fireworks and that lasted for about a minute and then saw police and ambulances rushing to the school.
She said she saw one student, bloodied and wrapped in a blanket, being evacuated from the scene.
Shoufler said that when firefighters arrived at the scene, police had neutralized the shooter. News reports said police were examining social media postings thought to belong to the gunman. Several reports said he may have shared his intentions online before the shooting.
Police by early afternoon were still going building by building at the college to secure the facility, searching students and staff as they left and boarded buses that transported them to local fairgrounds.
School shootings are a disturbing reality of U.S. life, and many facilities have reinforced security in recent years, especially in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012. Twenty students and six adults were killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut by 20-year-old Adam Lanza.
Thursday’s shooting is sure to reignite the debate in the United States on gun control, which is a charged topic in the campaign leading up to the presidential election.