Staring at his five bleeding bullet holes, Chris Mintz could only think about his now 6-year-old son. Moments earlier, he had tried to reason with the gunman: “It’s my kid’s birthday, man.” Moments later, he was pleading with people to call his son’s mother. He wouldn’t make it to the party.
In the days and weeks following the mass shooting at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College, Mintz has been called a hero. As many fled for their lives, the 30-year-old former Army infantryman found the gunman and confronted him at a classroom door, hoping to save those who were inside.
“All of a sudden, the shooter opened the classroom door beside the door to my left, he leaned half of his torso out and started shooting as I turned toward him,” Mintz wrote on his Facebook page. “He was so nonchalant through it all, like he was playing a video game and showed no emotion.
“The shots knocked me to the ground and left like a truck hit me.”
Police said Chris Harper Mercer, 26, shot and killed nine people, wounding several others, and then killed himself on Oct. 1 at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore. Since then, the tight-knit community has been remembering those who lost their lives and celebrating those who survived.
Mintz, one of those survivors, took to social media over the weekend to give his personal account of the day he said started “so normal” and ended in horror.
Mintz sat down near the front in his writing 121 class and started laughing at his teacher’s jokes. Within minutes, he and his classmates heard yelling in a nearby classroom.
“My teacher walked up to the door that connected our classroom and asked if everyone was ok, no one could tell what the yelling was. The teacher knocked on the door and there were gunshots that sounded like firecrackers going off,” he wrote. “So we all got up and took off out of the classroom and I stopped and held the door open and waited for everyone to leave safely. We all took off running down the breezeway toward the library — a boy and I collided while running because of the chaos and it knocked me to the ground.”
A counselor started screaming for someone to alert the students in the library, Mintz said, so he headed that direction — tearing up and down the book aisles, telling people to run.
Then he went back.
“I got to a classroom and looked into the door because it had a glass slate,” he wrote. “A guy that was further away and hiding behind cars startled me and yelled, ‘Don’t man, he’s going to shoot you, man!’ I stepped back a little bit … there was so much blood and it was so dark.
“I could only see one of the students through the door. She was screaming and yelling and covered in blood. I motioned my finger over my mouth, communicating to be quiet, and motioned both my hands down for them to stay down.”
Outside, police dispatchers were sending orders: “All units!” and “Send as many ambulances as you can.” Soon, police sirens started to wail.
Mintz said he “yelled to the guy in the parking lot ‘you need to go get the cops’ ‘tell them where we’re at’ he couldnt hear me so I had to repeat it a few times.”
Then Mercer popped his head from the classroom and pulled the trigger.
Mercer’s bullet struck Mintz. Mintz said he flew back and fell to the ground.
“He shot me again while I was on the ground and hit my finger and said: ‘That’s what you get for calling the cops.’ I laid there, in a fetal position unable to move, and responded: ‘I didn’t call the cops, man; they were already on the way.
“He leaned further out of the classroom and tried to shoot my phone. I yelled, ‘It’s my kid’s birthday, man!’ He pointed the gun right at my face and then retreated back into the class.”
Mintz said he tried to get up, but was unable to move.
“My legs felt like ice, like they didn’t exist, until I tried to move,” he wrote. “When I moved, pain shot through me like a bomb going off. I couldn’t move. His shots knocked me down onto my right hip. I tried to use my right hand to push myself. I started to lose track of time but it felt like I laid there for days.”
Mintz was shot five times — once in each leg, his abdomen, his shoulder blade and his finger, he said.
He was flown to nearby Mercy Medical Center, where he was told he would have to learn to walk again.
“He just tried to do the right thing,” his aunt Wanda Mintz told The Washington Post. “That’s just how he is. If he sees someone who needs help, he just helps. He just tried to intervene.”
Mintz was born and raised in Randleman, N.C., where he graduated from high school in 2003. He enlisted in the Army in May 2004 and served until March 2007, according to military records. Mintz trained at Fort Benning in Georgia before being stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington.
The infantryman never deployed, according to records, but he received three awards for his service: the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.
He moved from North Carolina to Oregon six years ago to get a “fresh start,” his family said. He was living in a trailer with his family and working in the furniture business.
“They needed something new,” his uncle Jerry Brown told The Washington Post. “He wanted a new place, a new career, something positive. … And that’s just what he was doing.”
But when his life was on the line, Mintz’s mind was focused on his son.
“The only thing I could say was, “It’s my son’s birthday. Please call my son’s mom and tell her I can’t pick him up from school today,'” he wrote. “An officer kneeled down behind me and said, ‘Everything is going to be okay.’
“When I saw him, I knew we were all going to be okay.”