Gunman at Oregon college asked students their religion then killed 9

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Umpqua Community College alumnus Donice Smith (L) is embraced after she said one of her former teachers was shot dead, near the site of a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg,Oregon October 1, 2015. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Steve Dipaola

Umpqua Community College alumnus Donice Smith (L) is embraced after she said one of her former teachers was shot dead, near the site of a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg,Oregon October 1, 2015. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Steve Dipaola

ROSEBURG, Ore. (Reuters)  A gunman stalked onto an Oregon college campus on Thursday (Oct. 1) and opened fire, killing nine people and wounding seven before police shot him to death, authorities said, in yet another burst of U.S. gun violence that ranked as the deadliest this year.

The suspect, who witnesses say fired dozens of shots in a classroom full of screaming students, was slain in an exchange of gunfire with two police officers in Snyder Hall at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, ending the morning rampage.

The gunman was not publicly identified by local authorities. A law enforcement source named him as Chris Harper-Mercer. Other media said he was 26.

In a photo posted on a MySpace profile believed to be his, a young man with a shaved head and dark-rimmed eyeglasses is seen staring into the camera while holding a rifle.

CNN reported the suspect was armed with three handguns, a “long gun” and body armor. According to survivors, the gunman at one point ordered cowering students to stand up and state their religion before shooting them one by one.

Stacy Boylan, the father of an 18-year-old student who was wounded but survived by playing dead, told CNN his daughter recounted her professor being shot point blank as the assailant stormed into the classroom.

“He was able to stand there and start asking people one by one what their religion was,” Boylan said, relating the ordeal as described by his daughter. “‘Are you a Christian?’ he would ask them. … ‘If you’re a Christian, stand up. Good. Because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second,’ and he shot and killed them. And he kept going down the line doing this to people.”

Another student, Kortney Moore, 18, who was present in the writing class when the gunman entered and survived unhurt, gave a similar account to the local News Review newspaper.


READ: As bells toll, clergy push Congress on gun control


Authorities offered no explanation for the gunman’s actions.

“The law enforcement investigation into the shooter and into his motivations is ongoing,” Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said at an afternoon news conference. He also said three of the wounded victims were hospitalized in critical condition.

Hanlin refused to name the gunman. “I will not give him the credit he probably sought via his horrific and cowardly act,” he told reporters.

In an Internet posting on the Spiritual Passions dating and social networking site, a user posted a picture that appears to be Harper-Mercer under the user name IRONCROSS45, a handle Harper-Mercer used as his email.

He described himself on the site as a 26-year-old, mixed-race “man looking for a woman.” He said he was “not religious, but spiritual,” and was a “teetotaler” living with his parents and a conservative Republican. Socially, he said, he was “shy at first” and “better in small groups.” He described himself as “always dieting” and looking for “the yin to my yang.”

The same email address linked to a Chris Harper-Mercer was also associated with the profile of user Lithium_Love on torrent sharing website KickAssTorrents.

The user wrote a blog post on the site about Vester Flanagan, the man who shot dead two reporters during a live broadcast in August before killing himself, calling the footage of the shooting “good.”

“On an interesting note, I have noticed that so many people like him are all alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight,” the post said.

The user’s last torrent upload was on Tuesday and was entitled “This World Surviving Sandy Hook BBC Documentary 2015,” according to the website.

The massacre in Roseburg, a former timber town on the western edge of the Cascades some 260 miles (420 km) south of Portland, was the latest in a flurry of lethal U.S. mass shootings in recent years.

Thursday’s was the deadliest this year, surpassing the nine killed in a gun battle between motorcycle gangs in Waco, Texas, in May, and the nine who died in the rampage of a gunman at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina in June.

Not counting Thursday’s incident, 293 mass shootings have been reported this year, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker website, a crowd-sourced database kept by anti-gun activists that logs events in which four or more people are shot.

The violence has fueled demands for more gun control in the United States, where ownership of firearms is protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and better care for the mentally ill.

President Barack Obama, speaking just hours after the rampage, said the mass killings should move Americans to demand greater gun controls from elected officials.


READ: Let us all now pray to the Almighty Gun (COMMENTARY)


“Somehow this has become routine,” a visibly angry Obama said. “The reporting is routine. My response here, at this podium, ends up being routine. … We’ve become numb to this.”

For students at Umpqua College and the town of Roseburg, Thursday’s violence was anything but routine.

Freshman Kenny Ungerman told NBC he saw the shooter, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, carrying a handgun as he went into the building, followed by gunshots and screams. Student Cassandra Welding told CNN that she heard 35 to 40 shots.

Student Brady Winder, in a posting on Facebook, said he was in a classroom next door and ran when he heard the gunfire.

“I ran to the edge of the campus, down a hill and waited. From talking with a student in the classroom where it happen, almost every person in the room was shot by a man with four guns,” Winder, 23, wrote.

Survivors were transported to a local fairground by bus, and some family members were left waiting for hours to see if their loved ones would be among them.

“We have grief counselors waiting for those parents who have no children getting off that bus,” said the college’s president, Rita Calvin.

State and federal authorities swarmed over Roseburg, with police descending on an apartment of the presumed suspect about 2 miles (3 km) from campus, where neighbors said they recognized him from photos posted on social media, but they had little to say about him.

A man identifying himself as Ian Mercer, the gunman’s father, spoke briefly to a throng of media outside his home in Los Angeles Thursday night.

“It’s been a devastating day, devastating for me and my family,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks provided by local broadcaster KNBC-TV.

Umpqua Community College, which began its fall term this week and serves more than 13,000 students – 3,000 of them enrolled full time – said it would be closed until Monday.

At nightfall, scores of people attended a candlelight vigil at a municipal park, where a lone trumpeter played strains of “Amazing Grace.”

The Roseburg shooting ranks among the bloodiest on U.S. school campuses, which have become frequent targets for such violence.

It was the deadliest at an institution of higher education since April 2007, when a student at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg killed 32 people and wounded 25 before taking his own life.

 

 

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  • Diogenes

    The phenomenal growth of hatred towards Christians, not only in traditional locales such as SE Asia and the Middle East, but in Africa, Europe and America is disturbing but not unlooked for. Each Religious website I visit is swarming with anti-Christian sentiment, the expressions are full of vitriol and glee at the potential suppression of the faith; some going so far as to declare their hope that Christians will be institutionalized, imprisoned, and even slain if they don’t abandon their faith or silence their voices in the public square. Humanists in their superior rationality pooh-pooh the notion that any significant persecution of Christians will occur in ‘civilized society.’ However, anecdotal evidence is mounting that the growing hostility towards the faith may be, and likely is, the beginning of a mounting trend; a trend prophesied by the authors of the New Testament. Soon it may be wholly unsafe to be a declared Christian, even in America.

  • Dave42

    “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other…because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Matthew 24:9-13

  • MarkE

    What we’re seeing is the result of a decades-long poisoning of the Christian “brand” by the fundamentalist, hyper-conservative, reactionary type of religiosity that claims to stake out the “Christian” position on all matters social, political, financial, and scientific. It has made the faith based on grace, mercy, hope, and compassion appear to many to be cold, heartless, exclusive, and hypocritical. IF this is the “faith” that ends in America, then we’ll be all the better for it.

  • Dave42

    Amen.

  • Ben in oakland

    ” Soon it may be wholly unsafe to be a declared Christian, even in America.”
    And yet, 70% of America IS Christian. So will you be persecuting each other?

    Of course, this is just nonsense, more feeding into the persecution complex that so animates a certain class of so-called Christian. For centuries, you have gotten away with attacking and demeaning others, and claiming that god told you to do it. Witches, gay people, Jews, Muslims, women, slavery segregation– and of course, your favorite pastimes. murdering each other.

    So you conflate the very real violence against Christians in the uncivilized world with losing your position of cultural dominance in the civilized world.*

    *I can haz persekkkution. Please send money.

  • Ben in oakland

    If you don’t want to be hated, buddy– not that you are– perhaps you should stop acting hatefully.

    No more lying about gay people, calling us a threat to all good and decent people like you everywhere. we’re not. and you’re not.

    No more opposing birth control AND abortion. Oppose one or the other, but be consistent.

    no more demanding special rights to discriminate.

    and on and on and on.

    Believe me. You would be surprised how little so many people would care about you if you just stopped attempting to use the coercive power of the state to intrude your religion into the lives of people who don’t like your religious beliefs, but don’t object to you having them for YOU, and who don’t want you control over their lives.

    as long as you insist on that control, there will be plenty of people who object to it.

  • Ben’s Other Face

    It’s only a difference of degree, not a difference in kind, at least if you’re a Christian person on the receiving end.

    Some Christian-haters have called for our death. The rest, though they haven’t called for our death, are perfectly happy to incite those who would be happy to kill us, if only they were not so afraid of civil consequences. Nevertheless, some of them kill, as witnessed by the student who just murdered 13 Christians, and endangered the lives of many more.

  • Ben’s Other Face

    “…9 Christians.”

  • Diogenes

    The notion that 70% of Americans are Christian is absurd regardless of polling. That fact merely demonstrates colossal ignorance of what it means to be a Christian. I’ve listened to people declare that they are Christian because they were born in America…what nonsense. Christians are called to a specific life predicated on following the instructions of the authors of the New Testament. Genuine Christians probably make up less than 20-30% of our national populace. Ben in Oakland, if you want this present world you can have it, I’m pinning my hopes on an entirely different world to come. If you want me to confess that I’m a flawed human being, I plead guilty. That said, I make every effort to treat every human being with dignity even as I am compelled to disagree with many of them over what makes a proper moral life. Even as I disagree with the “naturalness” of homosexuality, I am equally appalled by so called Christians who marry and divorce with alacrity.

  • Diogenes

    Christians are called to an objective standard; when standards become flexible to every whim, they are not standards at all. All people have agendas, all classes of people are interest groups. Live your life as you please, but don’t attempt to insist that people who believe otherwise from you must refrain from expressing their alternate point of view; which is rapidly becoming the practice among so called progressives. Dave42 quoted Matthew 24:9-13 but seems to have missed the point. We have moved so far from biblical standards in every scheme of life in this country that I readily await the judgement of God, costly though it will be.

  • Ben in oakland

    So your first argument is the No True Christian fallacy. It undermines your argument, not supports it. My reply is there is no such thing as a true Christian. The existence of hundreds if not thousands of denominations proves that.

    Pin your hopes on that entirely different world. I don’t care. We’re all flawed. I don’t care about that, either. What I care about is the insistence of some religious people of whatever faith is that I must believe what they believe, or they will hurt me or disadvantage me.

    Your “disagreement with the naturalness of homosexuality” merely argues that you actually DON’T respect my dignity. I know about my life and who I am. You don’t. You have an opinion based upon false premises like morality, what god wants, and “naturalness.”

    I’m glad you’re appalled at divorce. Perhaps you should be more concerned about that before you begin to debate my marriage, my life, and my participation in society as your equal before the law and society.

  • Ben in oakland

    Christians are called to an objective standard? Which one is that? The one that forbids graven images of the Baptists? Or the one that says they are fine, like the Catholics. What about the trinity? It’s not found in the bible. A number of CHRISTIAN denominations reject it.

    Oh, wait! They are not TRUE Christians. Just the ones that agree about the sinful nature of homosexuality are true. That’s objective for you.

    live my life as I please? sure. That’s why we had sodomy laws, don’t-ask-don’t-tell, antimarriage campaigns, and laws in 29 states that allow me to be fired because of someone’s religious beliefs about homosexuality. Live my life as I please, but don’t even begin to think that my life, love, family, faith, freedom, assets, and participation in society are as important as yours, and not subject to your religious beliefs.

    you speak from a place of heterosexual, Christian, fundamentalist privilege.

    Not compassion.

  • Shawnie5

    “I’ve listened to people declare that they are Christian because they were born in America…what nonsense.”

    I’ve heard many Europeans say exactly the same thing — of course I’m Christian, I was born into a Christian country, I was raised in a Christian culture. And yet even from the middle ages the actual practice of Christianity by ordinary people in Europe has been abysmally low. Nominal Christianity has been a plague upon the church ever since Constantine.

  • Ben in oakland

    In one posting you say that Christianity created the entire European world– laws, culture, and society. Then you say so many were just nominal Christians. You say then that Christianity was not responsible for slavery, even though they were responsible for everything.

    I will agree with your last sentence. nominal Christianity certainly has been a plague upon the church and the entire earth. If only Christians practiced what they preached about love and redemption, forgiveness, and so that.

    but if they did that, they’d be Unitarians.

  • Shawnie5

    Ben, you don’t read what I post very carefully. The laws and institutions and the overall ethical system of Christendom were the work of rulers and the church which educated and influenced them. The unfortunate side of that was that the established clergy, being in effect bureaucrats with all the diligence for which bureaucrats are famous, neglected the education and shepherding of the common people — leaving them to practice what was essentially a kind of pagan folk religion with the thinnest veneer of Christianity. The low church attendance in Europe is not a mondern-day phenomenon; it has existed since the early middle ages. Small wonder that once overseas colonization began, unchurched Europeans far from church influence quickly reverted to pre-christian slavery and barbarism. Europe’s low church attendance rate, about 17%, carried over to the New World as well until church/state separation initiated the 1st and 2nd Great Awakenings.

  • Larry

    Shawnie are you done making false quotes of other people?

    Of course not. Yes, a little word substitution changes the context of an entire post. Why be honest? It never served you in the past. 🙂

  • Larry

    The ethical system of Christendom has always been fatally flawed, hence the modern moving away from such slippery standards. Any act, no matter how atrocious can be excused and has been excused when one claims to be doing so in God’s name. From genocide to slavery to discrimination. As long as one can consider it “scripturally correct”, it is permissible. No matter what harm you cause to others, God says its OK, its “moral”.

    “Christian influence” is a nonsense term to cover up the fact that you can’t point to anything specific about the Christian religion (of course you will take credit for all sects even on contradictory positions by them), nor about Christian theology which relates to our laws and system of government today.

    Outside of the Quakers and some progressive sects, Christian views of government are autocratic in nature. Dictatorship and might makes right. Hence divine rule being synonymous with absolute rule.

  • ladyT13

    If you are a gunman looking for somewhere that you can shoot people without fear of being stopped, where would you go? To ANY campus in the USA because there is a law against having guns on campus. It’s like advertising….”Shoot people here….no one can stop you.” By the time law enforcement arrives, the gunman has finished his mission. When will we realize that we need armed security at all of our schools? We could put a stop to this tomorrow…and it won’t come via more gun control laws. This man was a criminal and planned this attack. Do you honestly believe gun control laws would have stopped him???

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