Chris Harper Mercer, the alleged gunman in the Oregon shootings. He had captioned this photo: ‘Me, holding a rifle.’ Photograph: Myspace
A gunman opened fire inside a classroom at a rural Oregon community college, killing at least nine people before dying in a shootout with police. One survivor said he demanded his victims state their religion before he started shooting.
The attack shattered the first week of classes at Umpqua Community College in the small timber town of Roseburg, about 180 miles south of Portland.
The killer was identified as 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer. Authorities shed no light on his motive and said they were investigating.
Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said 10 people were dead and seven wounded after the attack. An FBI spokeswoman said the gunman was included in that number.
Earlier, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said 13 people had been killed. It was unclear what led to the discrepancy.
Police began receiving calls about a campus shooting at 10:38 a.m. The school has a single unarmed security guard.
Kortney Moore, 18, said she was in a writing class when a shot came through the window and hit the teacher in the head.
The gunman then entered the Snyder Hall classroom and told people to get on the floor. He told people to stand up and state their religion before opening fire.
Next door, students heard a loud thud and then a volley of gunfire, Brady Winder, 23, told the newspaper.
Students scrambled "like ants, people screaming, 'Get out!'" Winder said. He said one woman swam across a creek to get away.
The sheriff said officers had a shootout with the gunman, but it was not clear if he was killed by authorities or whether he took his own life.
"It's been a terrible day," a grim-faced Hanlin said. "Certainly this is a huge shock to our community."
Hours after the attack, a visibly angry President Barack Obama spoke to reporters at the White House, saying the U.S. is becoming numb to mass shootings and that the shooters have "sickness" in their minds.
Repeating his support for tighter gun-control measures, the president said thoughts and prayers are no longer enough in such situations because they do nothing to stop similar attacks from happening a few weeks or months later. He challenged voters wanting to confront the problem to vote for elected officials who will act.
Roseburg is no stranger to school gun violence. A freshman at the local high school shot and wounded a fellow student in 2006.
The sheriff has been vocal in opposing state and federal gun-control legislation. In 2013, Hanlin sent a letter to Vice President Joe Biden after the shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school, declaring that he and his deputies would refuse to enforce new gun-control restrictions "offending the constitutional rights of my citizens."
Before the Roseburg shooting, a posting on the message-board site 4chan included a photo of a crudely drawn frog used regularly in Internet memes with a gun and warned other users not to go to school Thursday in the Northwest. The messages that followed spoke of mass shootings, with some egging on and even offering tips to the original poster. It's unclear if the messages are tied to the shooting because of the largely anonymous nature of the site.
The Umpqua shooter has been named as Chris Harper Mercer, a 26-year-old who lived with his mother at an apartment only a few miles from the college.
Although little is yet known about Mercer, he appears to have left an online footprint which hints at interest in mass shootings as well as apparent support for the IRA.
He also appears to have been a prolific user of the file-sharing system Bittorrent.
An email address, “firstname.lastname@example.org” was found to be associated with a Chris Harper Mercer of Winchester, , via a public records search. That address is linked to an account on the torrent upload site kat-ph.proxy-x.com, which bears the username “Lithium_Love”.
The final video uploaded by Lithium_Love to the torrent site, just three days ago, was a BBC documentary called “Surviving Sandy Hook,” about the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.
Other uploads include PDFs of the occult magazine Phenomena, conspiracy-themed documentaries like “Lost Secrets of the Illuminati”, and assorted soft pornography.
There is also a blog attached to the upload account. The first entry was posted on July 6, 2015, and is titled “The material world is a lie.” It says: “Most people will spend hours standing in front of stores just to buy a new iphone ... I used to be like that, always concerned about what clothes I had, rather than whether or not I was happy. But not anymore.”
“Since then I have learned the truth that such attachments are falsehoods and will only bring misery. This is my first blog post, there will be more to come.”
Other blog posts complain about the uploading habits of other users. Another bemoans the death of horror filmmaker Wes Craven.
A Myspace page bearing Mercer’s name is filled with pictures of masked gunmen and references to the Irish Republican Army, including a picture of the front page of a the Irish republican newspaper An Phoblacht, bearing the headline “British Army Could Not Defeat IRA”. Another photo to the page carries the words “IRA undefeated army”.
The page gives Mercer’s home location as Torrance, California. A Whitepages page – which tracks addresses and phone numbers – gives two addresses for Mercer: one in Torrance, California, and the other in Winchester, Oregon. The latter is also the address associated with the registration of the “ironcross45” email address.
Using that email address, Mercer also appears to have advertised for pen pals on the website Morgue Pals, which describes itself as “the hippest place for pen pals who identify with any sort of alternative culture.”
In his advertisement, Harper Mercer, then aged 20, said he was looking for email pals and described his hobbies as “music movies and news.”
In his profile he described himself as: “I’m 20 years old, in college, I like to listen to music, mostly goth/punk/industrial/electronic, and I love to watch movies, Horror movies are the best, but i also like some action films, depending on the type, and I like crime dramas as well.“
He added “I’m looking for penpals who are similar to me, but anyone is welcome to email me.”
The email address Ironcross45@gmail.com is also associated with a crowdfunding webpage to help the user pay for uploading and storing bittorrent files for downloading videos as well. According to the cached version of the webpage, the most recent video uploaded was “Collection Of Hot Lesbians (Nudes) Vol. 8.”
Two phone numbers associated with the name appeared to have been disconnected.
A profile on the site belonging to Mercer on the website Spiritual Singles, which advertises itself as “a free online dating & social networking site specifically for spiritual singles,” and bears a picture of the same person as Mercer’s Myspace page, the alleged killer describes himself politically as a “conservative, republican” whose hobbies are “internet, killing zombies, movies, music, reading” and who lives with parents.
In the profile, the personality type he is looking for is “intellectual, punk, introvert, loner, lover, geek, nerd” with an “individuality” of “piercings, psychic, tattoos, vampire”. His preferred religious views are “Pagan, Wiccan, Not Religious, but Spiritual” as well.
On the anarchic image-sharing message-board 4chan, rumours were flying on Thursday night that the killer may have been one of their own. In an anonymous post at 1:19 AM on Thursday morning on the /r9k board – all posts to 4chan are by definition anonymous – someone said “Some of you guys are alright. Don’t go to school tomorrow if you are in the northwest.”
Users on 4chan goaded the poster, and many on the board were freaking out on Thursday evening that they might have had a hand in the shooting, though there is no way of verifying that the post came from the shooter.
A spokesperson for the Douglas County sheriff’s department, which is handling the investigation, said that they could “neither confirm nor deny” at this point that they were investigating the post, though federal officials reportedly told the New York Times that they were doing so.
It is not known if Mercer was affiliated with the college, but his name was listed as a production assistant for an upcoming production of the Noel Coward play Blithe Spirit.
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