The gunman who killed nine and wounded seven others at Umpqua Community College in Oregon asked his victims whether they were Christian – and then executed them if they answered yes, according to witnesses.
Chris Harper Mercer, the 26-year-old man who has been identified in multiple reports as the gunman, was killed in a shootout with officers in a classroom building on campus. Police confirmed on Friday that he lived with his mother in the small city of Roseburg, Oregon, where Umpqua Community College is located.
The father of one of the victims spoke to his daughter, Anastasia Boylan, before she went into surgery. “I’ve been waiting to do this for years,” he said she recalled the gunman saying before shooting Anastasia’s teacher point blank, according to CNN.
Mercer then allegedly proceeded to ask the cowering students if they were Christians.
“And they would stand up and he said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second,’ ” Anastasia’s father, Stacy Boylan, told CNN. “And then he shot and killed them.”
Anastasia was shot in the back, but she managed to survive by playing dead, her mother told CNN.
High school student Autumn Vicari told NBC News that her 19-year-old brother J.J. shared a similar account with her. Mercer told the students in his classroom to stand up before asking whether they were Christian or not.
The ones who answered “yes” were shot in the head, Vicari said. If they answered another religion or didn’t answer at all, they were shot in a different part of the body. J.J. managed to escape the gunman, but not before seeing three of his fellow students killed, his sister told NBC.
Four firearms were recovered from the scene – three pistols and one long gun. It’s unclear whether they all belong to the shooter.
“The reporting is routine,” he said. “My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation and the aftermath of it – we’ve become numb to this.”
Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin told the Today show on Friday morning that authorities’ first priority is the victims, but as of yet they are not aware of any “red flags” regarding the gunman.
“He is a local resident,” Hanlin said, refusing to name Mercer. “I haven’t heard of any warning signs coming from this person.”
Authorities have yet to establish a motive in the horrific incident, but Rebecca Miles, a student who took a theater class with Mercer, told CNN, “He was a little odd, like sensitive to things.”
Added Steven Fisher, a neighbor who lived close to Mercer: “His demeanor, the way he moved, always looking around. I got a bad vibe from him.”
Mercer was killed on Thursday after exchanging gunfire with police. Umpqua Community College remains closed through the weekend, according to authorities.
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