Newspaper article International New York Times

Gunman in Oregon Is Recalled as a Recluse ; Neighbors Remember a Fragile Young Man Who Was Close to His Mother

Newspaper article International New York Times

Gunman in Oregon Is Recalled as a Recluse ; Neighbors Remember a Fragile Young Man Who Was Close to His Mother

Article excerpt

Neighbors remember a quiet and seemingly fragile young man with a shaved head and dark glasses who seemed to recoil from social interaction.

Chris Harper Mercer, the man identified as the gunman in the deadly rampage at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., was a withdrawn young man who neighbors said wore the same outfit every day -- combat boots, green Army pants and a white T-shirt -- and was close to his mother, who fiercely protected him.

Neighbors in Winchester, Ore., and Torrance, Calif., where Mr. Mercer lived with his mother, Laurel Harper, remember a reclusive and seemingly fragile young man with a shaved head and dark glasses who seemed to recoil from social interaction.

"He always seemed anxious," said Rosario Lucumi, 51, who rode the same bus in Torrance as Mr. Mercer when she went to work.

"He and his mother were really close," said Ms. Lucumi, who estimated that Mr. Mercer and his mother, who shared a small, one- bedroom apartment in Torrance, lived there for less than a year. "They were always together."

Bryan Clay, 18, said he once asked Mr. Mercer why he wore "a military get-up" every day.

"He kind of just didn't want of talk about it" and changed the subject, Mr. Clay said.

"He didn't say anything about himself," he added.

Derrick McClendon, 42, another former neighbor, said that Mr. Mercer was so timid and ill at ease that on occasion he would ask him if anything was wrong.

"I would say, 'Hey man, you all right?"' Mr. McClendon said. "He would say hi, but that's it. He was really shy."

Mr. Mercer appeared to have sought community on the Internet. A picture of him appeared on a MySpace page with a post expressing a deep interest in the Irish Republican Army. It included a video of footage from the conflict in Northern Ireland set to "The Men Behind the Wire," an Irish republican song, and several pictures of gunmen in black balaclavas. Another picture showed the front page of An Phoblacht, the party newspaper of Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the I.R.A.

In the offline world, Mr. Mercer's mother sought to protect him from all manner of neighborhood annoyance, former neighbors in Torrance said, from loud children and barking dogs to household pests. …

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