Mathew Downing’s ears began to ring so badly when Christopher Harper-Mercer started firing shots in his Oregon college classroom on Oct. 1 that he couldn’t hear anything. Even so, Downing eventually managed to hear Harper-Mercer tell everyone to get on the ground.
“I listened and figured that if I did so throughout, I wouldn’t be harmed,” Downing said in a statement published by the Oregonian newspaper.
Harper-Mercer killed nine people and wounded nine others before taking his own life in a rampage at Umpqua Community College last week, NBC News reported. The gunman spared one in the classroom that day because he wanted someone to live to give a message to police.
"He looked directly at me and said, 'Hey, kid with the glasses. You are the lucky one; I will not shoot you if you give this to the cops,' " Downing said in his statement.
Before giving Downing the envelope, which had a flash drive in it, Harper-Mercer pointed a gun directly at him, making him think for a moment that he was about to die.
According to Downing’s account, Harper-Mercer asked some students if they were religious before shooting them. He said the gunman shot two students who admitted they were Christians.
“The shooter ... asked one of the other students to stand up and, when he did, asked him if he was religious. The student said he was Christian and was shot," Downing said in his account.
"He then had another student stand up and asked him the same. When he answered 'Catholic,' the shooter then asked if he believed in the afterlife. The student said, 'I don't know,' and the shooter thanked him for standing up for his beliefs and shot him,” Downing said.
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) October 10, 2015
Downing said a woman on the ground said she was sorry for whatever she had done wrong and for whatever happened to the gunman, who responded by saying he “bets she was” before shooting her. When police arrived at the scene, Downing said Harper-Mercer fired his guns out of the classroom. When he leaned out of the classroom to exchange fire with police, he was shot by officers, the New York Post reported.
"When this happened, he laid down on the ground and shot himself in the head," Downing said, according to CNN.