Mother of UCC shooting victim: He wasn't perfect but he was tryi - KPTV - FOX 12

Mother of UCC shooting victim: He wasn't perfect but he was trying to be a better person

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A sign reading, "Pray for Roseburg" hangs about a mile from the campus of Umpqua Community College.

The roads are still blocked off leading up to UCC, where nine people were killed on a day they just came to learn, to better themselves.

One of those people was Jason Johnson.

The last time Johnson’s mother Tonja Engel saw her son, he was taking a hard won step toward changing his life.

“That morning he was happy and carefree, and 'I love you mom, see you later,' and he never came home, he never will again,” she recalled.

Johnson was taking classes at UCC after earning his high school diploma and getting clean through the Salvation Army's rehab program.

“He got all of his paperwork done to get his grants,” Engel explained. “He was very proud of himself for doing that. He wanted to be in college. And um… he went for three days.”

On Thursday morning, the shooter, Chris Harper-Mercer, entered a classroom in Snyder Hall and took the lives of nine people while injuring nine others.

“I found out that there had been a shooting and it had happening in the writing class, and my son was in the writing class,” Engel said. “I knew he was in the writing class. When I found that out, I, I just prayed that he was alright.”

Engel said if her son was able to contact her, he would have. So she spent the day waiting, hoping Johnson was okay, realizing the longer she waited that he wasn't.

“And when they drove in my driveway I could see they had shirts, ties and clipboards and I knew what they were coming to tell me,” she said.

Johnson was killed one week from his 34th birthday, and he leaves behind a twin brother, a nephew and a mother, as well as the potential for a new life ended right as it was beginning.

“He wasn't perfect, he'd be the first one to tell you that… well maybe not… but he wasn't perfect and he knew it. But he was trying to be a better person,” Engel said. “I love him today and I'll love him forever. And I'll miss him til I meet him.”

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