The gunman who killed nine people at an Oregon college exchanged fire with two police officers, who struck him once before he retreated into a classroom and killed himself, authorities said on Wednesday as they hailed the officers as heroes.
Douglas County District Attorney Rick Wesenberg at a news conference said he found the two plainclothes officers were justified in using force against the gunman after he carried out the rampage on Thursday at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg.
The shooting carried out by Chris Harper-Mercer, 26, ranks as the deadliest in the United States in two years and the bloodiest in modern Oregon history.
Authorities indicated last week that Harper-Mercer died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, but they had given few details on the shootout he had with police officers before he took his own life.
Roseburg police Sergeant Joe Kaney and detective Todd Spingath, who were not wearing bullet-proof vests, ran toward Snyder Hall on campus as Harper-Mercer stood in the doorway of the building and fired toward them with a 9 MM handgun, Wesenberg said.
Seconds later, the two officers who were about 15 yards (14 meters) from the gunman fired back three times, with one round striking Harper-Mercer in the side and two others hitting the entrance of the building, Wesenberg said.
The wounded gunman went back inside to a classroom where he shot himself to death at the front of the room, Wesenberg said. He did not shoot another person after exchanging gunfire with the two officers.
“These men saved lives this day,” Wesenberg told reporters.
Roseburg police chief Jim Burge called the two officers heroes.
In addition to the 10 people who died in the massacre, including the gunman, nine others were wounded.
Authorities have said little regarding what they know about the motives of Harper-Mercer, who by many accounts was a troubled, socially awkward loner with a passion for guns.
President Barack Obama, who spoke out forcefully in favor of stricter gun control measures after the massacre, plans to visit Roseburg on Friday to meet privately with families of the victims, the White House said this week.
(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Cynthia Osterman)