Alek Skarlatos put his quest for the Mirrorball Trophy on hold when he heard that a shooter killed 10 people on Thursday, Oct. 1, at the Oregon community college where he was a student. According to TMZ, Skarlatos was rehearsing for Dancing With the Stars when he heard the tragic news. The site reports that he quickly left the studio and phoned friends in Oregon.
The American Army National Guardsman, 22, became recognized as an international hero after averting a potential terrorist attack aboard a Paris-bound train in August. Skarlatos, who is competing on Season 21 of DWTS, tells Us Weekly in a statement that he wished he could have been at the school for his friends and fellow students.
"I was enrolled as a student at Umpqua Community College prior to my 2014 deployment to Afghanistan. While I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time in August aboard a train bound for Paris, I only wish that the same could be said for today,” the courageous 22-year-old tells Us. “I wish that I could have been there today to assist. I praise the first responders who were on the ground today in Roseburg as they undoubtedly were integral in saving numerous lives and putting a stop to what could have been more than tragic than it is. My heart and prayers go out to this community, my community, right now."
The young hero later tweeted that he was on his way back to Oregon.
Law enforcement officials have identified the gunman as 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer, and have confirmed that the shooter is dead.
During an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Thursday, Skarlatos noted how small the town of Roseburg is and that he could’ve been on campus were he not competing on DWTS.
“I mean, it’s a fairly small community college and just the town in general, everybody knows each other, so with that many deceased, I mean everybody’s going to know at least one person,” the war vet told the talk show host. “I mean I would have been there today if I didn’t agree to do this show. I had classes picked out and everything.”
Can't get enough of Us? Sign up now for the Us Weekly newsletter packed with the latest celeb news, hot pics, and more!