A police interview with the mother of the mass murderer who ended the lives of eight students and a teacher at Umpqua Community College two years ago creates a portrait of a lonely, angry boy who grew up to be a lonely, angry man who had difficulty connecting with other people.
Laurel Harper was interviewed at 2:11 p.m., Oct. 1, 2015 — less than four hours after the shooting — by Oregon State Police Detectives Steve Hinkle and Kyle Wilson. A full transcript of the interview was included in investigation reports released Friday.
Chris Harper-Mercer was “born angry, pretty much,” his mother told police. “I mean even the doctor said this is one angry baby.”
Harper said her son “had trouble connecting with people.”
He felt superior to other people his age, viewing them as stupid for purchasing skinny jeans and smartphones.
“I know that he, he had to have been lonely. He was alone, and he was a loner, and he took, it was difficult for him to commit to people, and, uh, I always felt like, you know, he was just on the outside looking in,” Harper said.
Throughout her interview, it’s clear there had been problems for a long time.
He had a psychiatric diagnosis — exactly what diagnosis is blocked out in the report — and had taken medications for it. But, according to his mother, nothing worked. He had recently taken to urinating into a bucket to avoid using the bathroom at night. She also said he enjoyed watching videos of killings on several websites.
Harper told police in a later, follow-up interview that she didn’t think her son was interested in the occult. His manifesto indicated otherwise. In contrast to some early speculations that he might have been a radical Muslim terrorist, it’s clear from his own writings that he considered himself a Satanist and thought he would be welcomed as a demon in hell.
He had been to a special school for troubled kids in California, and he had briefly entered the U.S. Army, spending a couple weeks in a North Carolina boot camp before being discharged. He seemed unable to get a job. Perhaps it was too scary for him, his mother suggested.
His father was from England, but hadn’t been involved in his life. It’s clear from Harper’s interview that she didn’t like the father. Assholism, she said, isn’t a medical diagnosis, “but, um, yeah, he’s got that.”
She also described her son’s fascination with guns. They had so many in the house, and it was such a mess, that she told police when she went to her son’s room after the shooting she couldn’t tell if any were missing.
She said after they moved from California to Roseburg, her son was excited to be able to open carry his guns. He was like a “kid in a candy store,” she said. But he stopped carrying after awhile, when the glamour wore off. The two belonged to the Roseburg Rod and Gun Club from 2013 to 2014.
Harper said her son paid for his gun purchases by selling his video games.
Five or six years ago, she said, he pointed a shotgun at her, but she didn’t contact the police.
Harper thought her son had “mellowed out” recently. He had enjoyed a theater class he’d taken Wednesday, and she thought he was looking forward to a meeting the class planned for Saturday. She thought it was a good sign that he’d decided to attend school, and hoped maybe he was just a “late bloomer.”
Harper said her son always turned the lights out when he left the house, but he didn’t turn them off the day of the shooting. As if it didn’t matter to him anymore, because he knew he wasn’t coming back, his mother said.
“He was not a spontaneous person. Change was hard for him. Um, I think that he had given this some thought,” she said.
She also thought something must have triggered his actions, but she didn’t know what it was.
“I think I need my son back. I need to understand, really, why he did this. I don’t,” she said.
When Detective Wilson asked Harper to guess why her son did what he did, she said she didn’t know.
“I just think he was angry at the world, angry, because he couldn’t, he couldn’t fit in,” she said.