The gunman who killed nine people at an Oregon community college before taking his own life ranted in writings he left behind about not having a girlfriend and thinking everyone else was crazy, a law enforcement official said Monday.
The official also said the mother of 26-year-old gunman Christopher Harper-Mercer has told investigators he was struggling with some mental health issues. The official is familiar with the investigation but wasn't authorized to speak publicly because it is ongoing.
Harper-Mercer complained in the writings about not having a girlfriend, and he seemed to feel like he was very rational while others around him were not, the official said.
He wrote something to the effect of: "Other people think I'm crazy, but I'm not. I'm the sane one," the official said. The writings recovered at the shooting scene were a couple of pages long.
The Christian Science Monitor notes that many mass shooters are men, who are often struggling with a warped sense of masculinity.
Men are often raised to be stoic, to suppress emotions rather than understand them, and when they struggle, often the only emotion that they see as sufficiently masculine to express is anger, says Jon Davies, director of the McKenzie River Men's Center in Eugene, Ore., and a former psychologist at the University of Oregon. On top of that, he says, “it’s impossible to reach the ideal of what it means to be a man.”
Fortunately, the vast majority of men get enough support in their lives that those societal pressures don’t turn into mass violence.
While mass shooters are often seen as “outliers or oddballs ... we should actually think of them as conformists,” says Tristan Bridges, a sociologist at The College at Brockport, State University of New York, citing research on masculinity by expert Michael Kimmel. “They’re over-conforming to masculinity, because they perceive themselves, in some way or another, as emasculated.... It’s a terrible statement about American masculinity, to say that when you’re emasculated, one way to respond is to open fire.”
Local pastor Randy Scroggins has said his 18-year-old daughter, who survived the shooting, told him the gunman gave an envelope to another student and instructed him to give it to police. The envelope contained a flash drive, Scroggins said.
Also Monday, some faculty, staff and students returned to the campus for the first time since the shooting, while President Barack Obama announced he will travel to Oregonthis week to visit privately with victims' families.
Classes do not resume at Umpqua Community College until next week, but some students came to the campus to pick up belongings they left behind Thursday when they fled. Others met with professional groups to discuss their trauma and grief.
A memorial was growing on the driveway leading to Snyder Hall, where Harper-Mercer opened fire. Besides those who died, nine people were wounded. Harper-Mercer killed himself after a shootout with police.
"It was hard not to focus on Snyder Hall," student Joel Mitchell said. "When we got back, I think a lot of people were probably ... looking at it, checking it out, seeing what it looked like."
A group of eight held hands and bowed their heads in prayer in front of the building. Elsewhere, clusters of people chatted at picnic tables or near buildings.
In a courtyard near the center of campus, a therapy dog sat on a blanket with its handler. A woman, crouched down, wiped away a tear.
At least one student injured in the shooting was among those who returned Monday, college President Rita Cavin said. She did not identify the student.
Reporters were barred from campus but taken on a brief tour. School officials designated an outdoor amphitheater as a makeshift memorial, open only to staff and students for now. Flowers and balloons were positioned on tables, and markers were available for people to write messages on a banner that says, "UCC Strong."
"I needed to be here," student Madysen Sanchez said. "I needed to come and see my friends, make sure they're OK."
Chaplains who had been on campus said they were both helping with and participating in the healing process.
"I'm going through the grieving process myself because this has touched everyone in the community," chaplain Russell Wilson said. "If you don't know someone that goes here, you know someone that knows someone."
Meanwhile, Obama said he will visit Roseburg on Friday as he opens a four-day trip to the West Coast. No additional details about his visit were immediately available.
Obama has renewed his call for stricter gun laws following the shooting and has expressed exasperation at the frequency of mass shootings in the U.S.
Abdollah reported from Los Angeles. P. Solomon Banda in Roseburg contributed to this report.