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Oregon Gunman and Heroic Victim Served in Army, With Different Records

Chris Harper Mercer, left, the alleged gunman in the Oregon shooting and Christopher Mintz, who was shot five times while attempting to prevent Mercer from entering a classroom. (Photos: Myspace and Facebook)
Chris Harper Mercer, left, the alleged gunman in the Oregon shooting and Christopher Mintz, who was shot five times while attempting to prevent Mercer from entering a classroom. (Photos: Myspace and Facebook)

The gunman who killed nine people and injured several others at a community college in Oregon and the heroic victim who tried to stop him both served in the U.S. Army, but with far different records.

The shooter, Christopher Sean Harper-Mercer, 26, entered basic training and served for a little more than a month from Nov. 5 to Dec. 11, 2008, before being discharged at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, "for failing to meet the minimum administrative standards," according to Lt. Col. Ben Garrett, a spokesman for the service at the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, Christopher Lee Mintz, 30, who was shot several times while trying to prevent Harper-Mercer from entering a classroom, served as an infantryman for almost three years from May 2004 to March 2007 and advanced from the rank of private E-1 to specialist E-4, Garrett said in an e-mail.

While Mintz didn't deploy to the war zone, he received multiple awards and decorations, including the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon, Garrett said.

He trained at Fort Benning in Georgia and served with the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington before being administratively discharged in 2007, Garrett said.

When gunfire erupted Thursday on the campus of the Umpqua Community College about three hours south of Portland, Mintz, a former high school football player who has competed in mixed martial arts, "tries to block the door to keep the gunman from coming in, gets shot three times, hits the floor," his aunt, Wanda Mintz, told a CNN affiliate. He "looks up at the gunman and says, 'It's my son's birthday today,' gets shot two more times." Mintz has a 6-year-old son, Tyrik.

Despite being shot several times, Mintz is in stable condition, according to his cousin, Ariana Earnhardt, according to the CNN report. "He's going to have to learn to walk again, but he walked away with his life and that's more than so many other people did," said told the affiliate.

Both of Mintz’s legs were broken during the shooting, according to a GoFundMe page, which was set up by his family to cover medical and child-care costs and has since raised $195,000 -- 20 times the original goal, The Washington Post reported.

Harper-Mercer, who police said committed suicide when officers approached, was heavily armed for the mass shooting -- with six guns, multiple ammunition magazines and a flak jacket, and had seven more firearms at home, according to an article in The New York Times. He was described as an alienated youth who despised religion and targeted Christians during his shooting spree.

"'Are you a Christian?' he would ask them," said Stacy Boylan, father of shooting victim Anastasia Boylan, 18, according to another CNN article. "'And if you're a Christian, stand up.' And they would stand up and he said, 'Good, because you're a Christian, you're going to see God in just about one second.' And then he shot and killed them, and then he kept going down the line doing this to people." Boylan said his daughter was shot in the spine but survived.

It wasn't immediately clear what Army standards Harper-Mercer failed to meet -- or why Mintz was discharged.

A soldier can be administratively discharged from the service for any number of reasons, including misconduct, a disciplinary infraction, a civilian offense, a physical or mental health condition, failure to meet weight or physical fitness standards, and drug or alcohol abuse.

--Brendan McGarry can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com.

Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

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