A pastor whose daughter survived the deadly massacre in a US college classroom has told his congregation that “violence will not have the last word” in the southern Oregon timber town.
More than 100 people gathered to hear pastor Randy Scroggins speak at New Beginnings Church of God, including his daughter 18-year-old Lacey, who survived the classroom shooting.
Scroggins told those gathered at his church that his daughter only survived because she was lying on the floor and partially covered by the body and blood of a fellow student. The gunman thought his daughter was dead.
Scroggins said he’s been asked whether he can forgive Christopher Sean Harper-Mercer, who killed nine people when he opened fire on Thursday at Umpqua Community College.
“Can I be honest? I don’t know. That’s the worst part of my job. I don’t know” said Scroggins, his voice cracking with emotion. “I don’t focus on the man. I focus on the evil that was in the man.”
Harper-Mercer killed himself after a shootout with police.
Scroggins said the community has “come together with strength and courage and compassion. As if to say, ‘we will not be defined by violence’ …Violence will not have the last word in Roseburg.”
Religious faith is an important part of many people’s lives in this rural part of Oregon, called by some “the Bible Belt of Oregon.” In Roseburg alone, there are dozens of churches, and Christian billboards and crosses dot area highways and roads.
Schlesinger also spoke about trying to make sense of survivor reports that the gunman asked who was Christian and then shot them.
“As those brave men and women were willing to stand and take a bullet for their faith … so let us bravely stand this day and live our faith in Roseburg,” he said, wiping away tears.