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Oregon Gunman 'Kicked Out of Army for Suicide Attempt'

Details emerge of police heroism during mass shooting
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 8, 2015 1:09 AM CDT
Oregon Gunman 'Kicked Out of Army for Suicide Attempt'
Police officers stand guard outside the apartment building where Harper-Mercer lived with his mother in Roseburg, Ore.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

(Newser) – A missed chance? Oregon mass shooter Christopher Harper-Mercer was kicked out of the military for trying to kill himself, but that didn't affect his ability to buy guns, law enforcement sources tell the Wall Street Journal. An Army spokeswoman tells the BBC that Harper-Mercer, who was 26 at the time of last week's rampage, was discharged in 2008 after less than a month in basic training, but under privacy rules, the reason cannot be disclosed. He did not receive a dishonorable discharge, which, under federal law, would have prevented him from buying firearms, the Journal reports. The six firearms Harper-Mercer was found with at Umpqua Community College were legally purchased by him or a relative.

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Harper-Mercer's rampage was the deadliest in the US in two years, and police say it could have been even worse if not for the heroic actions of two plainclothes officers who arrived at the scene, reports Reuters. Police say Sgt. Joe Kaney and Detective Todd Spingath, who were not wearing bulletproof vests, ran at the gunman as he stood in the doorway of a campus building, shooting at them with a handgun. Harper-Mercer was wounded in an exchange of fire and retreated before killing himself in the same classroom where he had killed a teacher and students, the New York Times reports. "These men saved lives this day," the local DA says. "They were under fire, and they ran toward it." (The gunman left behind writings complaining about his lack of a girlfriend.)

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