A gunman singled out Christians, telling them they would see God in “one second,” during a rampage at an Oregon college Thursday that left at least nine innocent people dead and several more wounded, survivors and authorities said.
“[He started] asking people one by one what their religion was. ‘Are you a Christian?’ he would ask them, and if you’re a Christian stand up. And they would stand up and he said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you are going to see God in just about one second.’ And then he shot and killed them,” Stacy Boylen, whose daughter was wounded at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., told CNN.
A twitter user named @bodhilooney,” who said her grandmother was at the scene of the carnage, tweeted that if victims said they were Christian “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 an online profile, in which he became a member of a “doesn’t like organized religion” group on an Internet dating site.
Kortney Moore, 18, said she saw the teacher of her Writing 115 class get shot in the head at the college’s Snyder Hall before the gunman started asking people to state their religion and opening fire, the city’s News-Review newspaper reported.
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 — three pistols and a rifle — 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 he had a fascination with the terror tactics of the Irish Republican Army, and bought Nazi memorabilia. He also wrote a blog post that mentioned Vester Lee Flanagan, who murdered a Virginia newswoman and cameraman live on air, 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 it 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.
- President Obama issued a plea for greater gun control and bemoaned that America is “the only advanced country on earth [that] sees these kind of mass shooting every few months.”
- The attack brought the number of mass shootings in the nation this year to 294, 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 sitting in a classroom next door when she heard a pop that sounded like a yardstick slapping on a chalkboard, she said.
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 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 several times 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.
The sheriff said the shooter was taken down by two officers who rushed to scene without backup minutes into the shooting.
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.”
Additional reporting by Sophia Rosenbaum