'It's my son's birthday,' hero pleaded with Oregon shooter

PHOTO: AFP

ROSEBURG, United States - An army veteran was hailed a hero for charging the gunman during a mass shooting at a college in Oregon, before being shot despite pleading that it was his son's birthday..

Chris Mintz, 30, who was studying to become a fitness trainer at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, sprung into action Thursday when the shooting began, urging people to flee and running toward the building where the killings were taking place, his family and witnesses said.

Mintz tried to prevent the gunman - widely identified as Chris Harper Mercer, 26 - from entering a classroom by throwing his weight against the door.

But the gunman managed to blast his way in and shot Mintz seven times, ignoring pleas that it was his son Tirek's sixth birthday.

"He told him, 'please don't do this, it's my son's birthday today'," Mintz's cousin Ariana Earnhardt told CNN.

The family said that Mintz was shot in the back, abdomen and left hand and suffered two broken legs.

"He's going to have to learn to walk again," Earnhardt said. "But he walked away with his life, and that's more than so many other people did." A GoFundMe campaign set up by the family to help with Mintz's rehabilitation had raised more than US$450,000 (S$644,760) by late Friday.

"Yesterday my cousin Chris Mintz was shot 7 times while trying to protect others from the gunman at Umpqua Community College," Derek Bourgeois wrote on the page, which carried a photo of a smiling Mintz in his hospital bed.

"He is a father, a veteran, a student, and now he's a hero," he added.

"During the shooting both of his legs were broken and he is going to have to go through a ton of physical therapy. While Chris is not the type of person to ask for it, he is going to need all of the help he can get while he recovers!" Mike Gwaltney, a friend of Mintz, told CNN that he had visited him at the hospital and said Mintz was thankful to be alive.

"He's sad like everybody else... but he's ready to start the road to recovery," Gwaltney said.

Gwaltney said Mintz had tried to "talk some sense" into the shooter, "tried to see if he had... a heart and clearly we know now he didn't." Nine people died in the massacre on Thursday. The shooter, who owned 13 weapons, six of which were found at the college along with a flak jacket and ammunition, was killed in a shootout with police.

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