Oregon Sheriff John Hanlin Won't Name The Umpqua Gunman: "I Will Not Give Him The Credit He Probably Sought"
Shortly after the identity of the Oregon Community College shooter was released on Thursday, Sheriff John Hanlin said he won't name the shooter. According to Hanlin, although authorities have determined the identity of the individual believed to be responsible for the deaths of nine individuals at Umpqua Community College — he has been named as Chris Harper Mercer — the official identification will be made by the medical examiner. “I will not give him the credit he probably sought with this horrific and cowardly act,” Hanlin told the press. “You will never hear me mention his name.” (Update: The victims' names were released Friday night: Lucero Alcaraz, 19; Treven Taylor Anspach, 20; Rebecka Ann Carnes, 18; Quinn Glen Cooper, 18;Kim Saltmarsh Dietz, 59; Lucas Eibel, 18; Jason Dale Johnson, 33;Lawrence Levine, 67 (assistant professor); Sarena Dawn Moore, 44.)
According to the Associated Press, other law enforcement officials have identified the shooter as 26-year-old Mercer. Harper allegedly opened fired on the UCC campus on Thursday, and is among the 10 confirmed dead at the scene. It is unknown if he was killed by police, or if he turned the gun on himself. According to CNN, Mercer wore body armor and had four guns, as well as large amounts of ammunition.
Hanlin's decision to not broadcast Mercer's name appears to fall in line with the mission of the "No Notoriety" campaign, an effort by the victims and families of mass shootings to avoid focusing on killers and giving them notoriety.
The goal of the campaign is to urge media outlets to avoid showing photos of killers or using their names past the initial identification. Instead of covering the killer, supporters of the campaign prefer the media to run stories covering the victims.
"No Notoriety" grew out of the aftermath of the 2012 Aurora, Colo. theater shooting, which saw extensive coverage of shooter James Holmes and his ensuing trial. As mass shootings become more commonplace, they can sometimes be seen as an opportunity for the shooter to achieve their 15 minutes of fame. And the more heinous the crime, the longer America remembers their name. The "No Notoriety" campaign recognizes this and urges media outlets to limit their exposure and coverage of killers, in order to possibly prevent inspiring others.
Hanlin's refusal to release the name in the case of the UCC shooting is particularly laudable, considering reports that Mercer allegedly posted about his plans on anonymous online forum 4Chan. On Wednesday evening before the chat, someone posted, "Don’t go to school tomorrow if you are in the northwest. Happening thread will be posted tomorrow morning."
As 4Chan is an anonymous site, officials have not confirmed whether the poster was in fact Mercer, but at one point in the chain the original poster said, “This is the only time I’ll ever be in the news. I’m so insignificant.”
If the post in question was created by the Oregon gunman, then it appears that notoriety was in fact one of his motives for the rampage. If this is the case, then Hanlin's subsequent refusal to acknowledge Mercer's identity is the perfect reaction to an attack of this caliber. If mass shootings cease to be an avenue for momentary fame, then it no longer becomes a viable option for disturbed individuals seeking exposure.
Hanlin's decision is sure to be applauded amongst the families of the victims, as well as those who have experienced past shooting tragedies. And if the media outlets follow his example, it may actually lead to some sort of change in the relentless cycle of mass shootings currently plaguing America.