A gunman singled out Christians for slaughter during a rampage at an Oregon college Thursday, leaving at least nine innocent people dead and several more wounded, survivors and authorities said.
“The shooter was lining people up and asking if they were Christian,” tweeted“@bodhilooney,” who said her grandmother was inside the Umpqua Community College classroom that was the scene of the carnage.
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.”
Gunman Chris Harper-Mercer’s disdain for religion was evident in online profile, as the madman became a member of a “doesn’t like organized religion” group on an Internet dating site.
During the rampage, student Kortney Moore, 18, said she was attending Writing 115 class at the Roseburg college’s Snyder Hall when a bullet pierced a window, the southwestern Oregon city’s News-Review newspaper reported.
She saw her teacher get shot in the head and said the gunman asked people to state their religion before he opened fire.
Harper-Mercer, 26, was killed in a shootout with police outside one of the classrooms, said Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin.
“There was an exchange of gunfire,” he said. “The shooter threat was neutralized.
Although police put the death toll at 10 — including Harper-Mercer — with seven people injured, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum had said 13 people died.
In other developments:
- The killer was carrying four guns — including three pistols and a rifle — during the attack, a source told CNN.
- An anonymous user wrote in an ominous post on the online bulletin board 4chan Wednesday night: “Some of you guys are alright. Don’t go to school tomorrow if you are in the northwest. happening thread will be posted tomorrow morning. so long space robots,” the post concluded.
Online profiles linked to Harper-Mercer showed that the deranged man had a fascination with terror tactics of the Irish Republican Party and bought Nazi memorabilia. He also wrote a blog post that mentioned Virginia shooter Vester Lee Flanagan, according to CBS news.
“Seems like the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight,” he wrote.
A former president of the college said that the school has only one unarmed security officer and that the community decided against armed guards last year.
“I suspect this is going to start a discussion across the country about how community colleges prepare themselves for events like this,” Joe Olson told CBS News.
President Obama issued a plea for greater gun control and bemoaned that America is “the only advanced country on Earth who sees these kind of mass shooting every few months.”
“Each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough,” he said Thursday evening. “It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache, the grief and anger we should feel, and it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted in America.”
This attacks brings the total number of mass shootings in the country to 294 this year, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker. The web site defines mass shootings as incidents in which four or more people are killed or injured by gunfire. Witnesses described a chaotic scene inside Snyder Hall.
People were scrambling “like ants” when the gunman opened fire at around 10:38 a.m., according to Brady Winder, a 23-year-old student from Portland.
“People [were] screaming, ‘Get out!’ ” he told The News-Review, adding he saw a girl frantically swimming across a creek to escape.
Student Hannah Miles was also sitting in a classroom next door when she heard a pop that sounded like a yardstick slapping on a chalkboard.
Everyone in her classroom fled as more gunfire erupted.
Student Brandy Winter posted on Facebook, “I ran to the edge of the campus, down a hill and waited. From talking with a student in the classroom where it happened, almost every person in the room was shot by a man with four guns.’’
Another student, Luke Rogers, said he saw blood in a classroom as he was evacuated from the building.
“As we passed by the classroom, on the ground there were drops of blood,” the first-year Umpqua student told CNN. “We didn’t see any bodies. We saw books on the ground.”
One witness told The New York Times that she heard gunshots coming from outside her classroom.
She said a middle-aged woman then tried to close the door and prevent the shooter from getting inside, but she was shot by several rounds in the stomach.
The gunman “was just out there, hanging outside the door,” Cassandra Welding told the Times “and she slumped over and I knew something wasn’t right. And they’re like, ‘She got shot, she got shot.’ And everyone is panicking.”
Douglas County Fire Marshal Ray Shoulfer said victims were found in “multiple classrooms,” according to CNN.
In a national address, Obama lamented that mass shootings have become routine in America.
“I hope and pray that I don’t have to come out again during my tenure as president to offer my condolences to families in these circumstances,” he said. “But based on my experience as president, I can’t guarantee that, and that’s terrible to say, and it can change.”