The gunman, who killed nine people at an Oregon community college before dying in a firefight 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer, was brimming with volcanic anger filled with lava of hate, officials said. Details about Mercer and the country’s latest gunfire tragedy at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg had emerged by Thursdaynight.
“The shooter was lining people up and asking if they were Christian,” according to a Twitter user who said a relative had survived the shooting.”If they said yes, then they were shot in the head. If they said no, or didn’t answer, they were shot in the legs,” recall eye-witnesses with horror.
Those victims had been forced to say their religions at gunpoint before Mercer fired on them, according to widely-cited eyewitness accounts.
Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said he wouldn’t name the shooter because “I will not give him the credit he probably sought” at a press conference. Yet a picture of the shooter who reportedly demanded his victims to state their religions before firing on them began to take shape through news reports and Mercer’s apparent online profiles. His social media paints a picture of someone who admired Irish Republican Army fighters, thought a great deal about America’s mass killings and may have even revealed hints about the community college massacre.
“He appears to be an angry young man who was very filled with hate,” a law enforcement official told The New York Times. Mercer brought at least three weapons – handguns and at least one long gun – with him to the 10:38 a.m. killing in the town about 180 miles south of Portland, officials said. He was carrying enough bullets for a prolonged gunfight and body armor, CNN reported. Nine people died and seven others were wounded when Mercer opened fire.
At least two police officers who rushed to the community college killed the gunman in a shootout, Hanlin told reporters. The sheriff praised the officers’ heroism but sought to keep Mercer out of the headlines.
“I will not give him the credit he probably sought prior to this horrific and cowardly act,” Hanlin said of his avoidance of Mercer’s name. “We would encourage media and the community to avoid using it, repeating it, or engaging in any glorification and sensationalization of him.
“He in no way deserves it,” Hanlin added. “Focus your attention on the victims and their families and helping them to recover.”
The accounts of the shooting have raised questions about what may have possessed Mercer to engage in the brutal act. Mercer was born in England and moved to the U.S. when he was young, according to reports cited by The Guardian. He apparently lived with his mother in the nearby town of Winchester, neighbors said.