John Hanlin has worked for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office for over 25 years. The Roseburg, Oregon native grew up in the area. He’s lived there his entire life and, on Thursday morning, his entire life changed.
Hanlin led the emergency response to the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College where Chris Harper Mercer opened fire on Thursday. Mercer killed at least 10 people and wounded 20 more on his shooting spree.
But while Hanlin was focused on the after-effects on the tragedy on the small community, the headlines, instead, focused on his past. Hanlin, who would not say Mercer’s name during his press conferences, had previously fought against a White House push for stricter gun control in the wake of the Newtown school shooting in 2012.
Here’s what you need to know about Hanlin and his decades-long career on the force:
1. Hanlin Refused to Speak the Shooter’s Name During a Press Conference on Thursday
Hanlin held a press conference at 5 p.m. on Thursday evening, nearly eight hours after Chris Harper Mercer first began his on-campus rampage, telling reporters that he believed there were 10 dead, referring to the total as the “best, most accurate information we have at the time.”
However, while Hanlin’s updates of the on-campus situation were the intended focus of the press conference, it was what the sheriff didn’t say that quickly became the headline. Hanlin refused to call Mercer by name, saying:
Let me very clear, I will not name the shooter. I will not give him the credit he probably sought prior to this horrific and cowardly act.
The long-time area sheriff also encouraged reporters “not to glorify and create sensationalism for him. He in no way deserves it.”
2. He was Part of a Group of Sheriffs Who Criticized Gun Control Legislation Following the Shooting in Newtown
Two years ago, following the 2012 shooting at the Newtown elementary school, Hanlin was one of hundreds of sheriffs around the country who publicly vowed to stand against new gun control legislation put forth by the Obama administration.
In fact, Hanlin felt so strongly about the legislation that, in January 2013, he wrote to Vice President Joe Biden, saying, “Gun control is NOT the answer to preventing heinous crimes like school shootings.” Mother Jones was the first to report on the letter on Thursday, publishing the note in its entirety on its website:
Hanlin was also joined in his anger by Linn County, Oregon Sheriff Tim Mueller, who said politicians were exploiting the deaths of the innocent to pass laws. The Douglas County Sheriff has taken to social media multiple times in the past few years to express his views on gun control as well, sharing photos and memes such as this one:
3. Hanlin Is Serving His Second Term as the 48th Sheriff of Douglas County
Hanlin was elected to his first four-year term as the 48th Sheriff of Douglas County in 2009. In 2012, he ran unopposed and was re-elected. He is currently serving his second term as sheriff.
Throughout the course of his career, Hanlin has attended a handful of specialized law enforcement and law enforcement administration courses. He has partnered with the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards & Training, and the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association.
According to his biography on the Douglas County Sheriff Department’s website, Hanlin is a regular hunter and fisher and frequently explores the local area on his Harley Davidson.
4. He Attended Umpqua Community College
Hanlin’s connection to Umpqua Community College go far beyond that of just a general law enforcement officer and an area school. The Roseburg area native graduated from Glide High School in 1980 and attended the community college as well in the early 1980’s.
In 1983, Hanlin moved to Bend, Oregon to attend Central Oregon College. He graduated from the school in 1986 with an A.S Degree Computer Information Systems. After college, Hanlin worked with the Douglas Forest Protective Association as a Forest Officer and was eventually hired by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in 1989.
5. Hanlin Also Worked on the Sheriff’s Office Tactical Response Team
Although he has worked in the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office for 25 years, Hanlin’s tenure on the force has been nothing short of expansive. In the past two and a half decades, Hanlin has served as a patrol deputy in the South County and Roseburg Patrol Offices, as a Street Crimes Unit investigator, and as a narcotics detective.
Hanlin was also an active member of the Sheriff’s Office Tactical Response Team for more than 12 years. The TRT was founded as way to safely enter buildings in hostile situations.
In April 2001 Hanlin was named the Commander of the Douglas Interagency Narcotics Team, a post he held for four years, before being promoted to Lieutenant in 2005 and assigned to command the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Detectives Division.