In the aftermath of the Oct. 1, 2015, mass shooting at Umpqua Community College, there were four students left uninjured, physically at least, in Snyder Hall, Room 15.
One of them was Mathew Downing. He was singled out at the beginning by the shooter, who handed him his manifesto in an envelope to give to the police. Downing threw the envelope down as he ran out of the room, but police later found it.
Another uninjured survivor was David Coder, who told police he kept his eyes closed so he would appear dead. A bullet went through his sweater, but missed him.
Both men were interviewed by police, and recordings of those interviews were included in investigation documents the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office released Friday.
Downing told police the shooter fired a couple of shots before entering the room and then told everyone to go to the middle of the room.
Then he singled out Downing, and handed him an envelope.
“He’s like this is a memento to the cops for whoever the f- — survives this. And he told me to get in the back of the class and that he wasn’t going to hurt me if I give it to the cops.
“And then he just shot people. He just went through and shot everybody one by one. He was asking them if they were religious,” he said.
The day afterward, he was interviewed again, and provided police with additional details. He said all the students were sitting or lying down in the center of the room, and a couple of them were shot.
Then, the shooter “told one guy to stand up and asked him if he was religious,” Downing said.
“And he said he was Christian, and he said OK, and then just shot him,” he said.
Then he asked a second guy to stand up and asked him, too, if he was religious.
“He said he was Catholic and stuff like that, and (the shooter) was asking if he believed in an afterlife, and he said thank you for standing up for your beliefs or something like that and then shot him. And then after that he just kind of started indiscriminately shooting at people,” Downing said.
Next he heard an altercation between the shooter and Chris Mintz, who was wounded, but survived the attack.
“The guy was like, oh no, it’s my son’s birthday, please don’t shoot me, and I don’t know how many shots he fired at him ... he came back in, shot a few more people,” Downing said.
Then he described the police arriving, the shooter going out the door, fire exchanged, and then the shooter came in, laid down on the ground and shot himself in the head.
Finally the police told them they could come out. Downing said he just couldn’t make sense of the attack, or of the attacker.
“He seemed happy doing it. Just, he didn’t seem angry at all. Like he wasn’t agitated or anything,” Downing told police.
When the officer interviewing Downing asked if he had any questions, he answered, “Do you have any idea why? I’m just curious why.”
Later, investigators would discover the contents of the envelope Downing was handed contained some of the answer. The shooter was angry and delusional. He thought he was the most hated person in the world. He had no friends on earth, but believed he would be welcomed as a demon in hell.
While Downing was singled out for survival seemingly at random, Coder survived through a combination of luck and keeping his wits about him.
In a police interview two days after the shooting, Coder said he was seated at a table close to the door, working on a grammar worksheet, when the shooter came in.
The shooter said, “I’ve been waiting to do this for a long time,” Coder said.
Coder saw his teacher get shot in the head next to him. Others were shot around him.
The shooter wasn’t looking at him, so he did the only thing he could think of to stay alive. He picked up brains from one of the victims off the ground and put them all over his face and head. And laid there as still as he could. He hoped the shooter would think him dead.
“I feel really bad for just laying there, but I didn’t know what to do,” he told police afterward. “I laid there and pretended to be dead while other people got killed. That’s the hardest thing about it ... knowing I was sitting there trying to live while other people were dying.”
There was very little sound in the room, except for the gunshots.
“Everybody was silent. I mean, he shot a lot of bullets. I figured everybody in there was dead,” he said.
He heard Mintz’ confrontation with the shooter, then the exchange of shots with the police, though he didn’t know exactly what was happening. Then he heard someone ask a girl in the room if she was OK and say the shooter was down.
He saw the shooter, folded over his legs, with blood coming out of his head. Coder took the gun out of the shooter’s hand.
He remembered the shooter saying everybody was going to die, and anyone who made it out of the room should consider themselves lucky.
Coder took off his sweater to offer it to another survivor so she could wipe blood off her face. That’s when he found a bullet hanging on his T-shirt.
“I didn’t even realize what it was at first. I took it off and put it in my pocket,” he told police. Later, he realized what it was and turned it in as evidence.
In the end, 12 people survived the attack. Eight of the survivors were wounded. Ten people, including the shooter, died.