By Paul Daquilante • Staff Writer • 

Yamhill County assists Roseburg shooting victims

The Yamhill County District Attorney’s Office extended an offer last Thursday, in the wake of a shooting rampage at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, of assistance of its victims’ services office. It was immediately accepted.

Before turning the gun on himself, student Christopher Harper-Mercer killed the instructor and eight fellow students in a writing class.

In addition to English professor Lawrence Levine, the dead and wounded included young students recently out of high school and older students embarking on a new start in life.

The rural campus is located on about 100 acres on the banks of the South Umpqua River.

It was only the fourth day of fall term, and Levine’s 10 a.m. introductory composition class was underway.

Mercer-Harper arrived on campus not with books, but with a bulletproof vest and an arsenal of weapons — a semi-automatic rifle, five handguns and five magazines of ammunition. The 26-year-old California transplant proceeded to carry out Oregon’s worst mass shooting.

“Several district attorney’s offices reached out to see if there was anything they could do assist,” said local DA Brad Berry said. “We inquired to see if we could provide victims’ assistance.

“That was the primary need. A lot of district attorney office have very active victims’ services programs.”

Debra Bridges, who oversees the Yamhill County program, immediately traveled south. She spent all Friday in Roseburg, drove back home for the weekend, then returned to Roseburg to spend additional time with victims on Monday and Tuesday.

“There are so many victims, so many families and the community trauma that goes along with all of that,” Berry said. “Funerals will start soon, and the need will continue to be great.

“Members of my staff — and Deb in particular — are trained to work with people who are dealing with a traumatic event. They are trained to help people process, and trained to comfort and provide what people need.”

Berry said victim assistance experts are prepared to handle an array of emotions, as one individual’s response to the event that transpired can differ from others who have been affected.

The needs of every individual must be met, and it’s the staff’s job to guarantee that happens, he said.

Berry said he knows the Roseburg community is hurting emotionally. It’s difficult even for those involved in the criminal justice system, regardless of how much tragedy they have witnessed, to comprehend what happened on the UCC campus, he said.

“In talking to people from all over the state, the common response has been sadness and a feeling of how can something like this happen,” Berry said.

“We do deal with people who have been harmed in minor and major ways. This is so senseless, and it’s impacted people in such traumatic ways.”

The Coos, Lane, Josephine, Clackamas, Washington, Union and Deschutes county victims’ services offices are also assisting, as is the state Department of Justice’s team.