The gunman who opened fire at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College singled out Christians, according to the father of a wounded student.
Before going into spinal surgery, Anastasia Boylan told her father the gunman entered her classroom firing.
“I’ve been waiting to do this for years,” the gunman told the professor teaching the class. He shot him point blank, Boylan recounted.
Others were hit too, she told her family.
Everyone in the classroom dropped to the ground.
The gunman, while reloading his handgun, ordered the students to stand up and asked if they were Christians, Boylan told her family.
“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,'” Boylan’s father, Stacy, told CNN, relaying her account.
“And then he shot and killed them.”
Boylan, 18, was hit in the back by a bullet that traveled down her spine. While she lay bleeding on the floor, the gunman called out to her, “Hey you, blond woman,” her mother said.
She played dead — and survived.
The massacre on the Umpqua campus Thursday left nine people dead and nine wounded. The gunman also died, although it’s unclear whether he was shot by police or committed suicide.
Speaking Friday morning on CNN’s “New Day,” Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said he had not heard anything about the gunman asking victims about their religion.
He also wouldn’t talk about why the shooting happened, saying, “It’s really too early to tell what the motive was.”
Hanlin reiterated that he will not officially identify the gunman, leaving that task to the state medical examiner’s office.
“I don’t want to glorify the shooter, I don’t want to glorify his name, I don’t want to glorify his cause,”Hanlin said. “I’m refusing to state his name. … You won’t hear his name from me or this investigation.”
Multiple law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation identified the gunman as Chris Harper Mercer, 26.
One law enforcement official said the shooter had body armor with him and was heavily armed, with a large amount of ammunition — enough for a prolonged gunfight. Authorities recovered three pistols and one rifle at the scene, one official said.
Authorities credited a quick response by law enforcement for keeping the death toll from climbing.
The gunman’s death means officials will never definitively know what compelled him to carry out the attack at the Roseburg campus, about 180 miles south of Portland.
“He was a little odd, like sensitive to things,” said Rebecca Miles, who took a theater class with Mercer.
Throughout Thursday night, investigators talked to the gunman’s family and neighbors to try to piece together the puzzle.
“Obviously it’s been a devastating day,” Mercer’s father, Ian, told reporters outside his house in Tarzana, California. “Devastating for me and my family.”
Bronte Hart, who lives in the building where Mercer lived, said the man would “sit by himself in the dark in the balcony with this little light.”
Hart said a woman she believed to be Mercer’s mother lived with him and was “crying her eyes out” Thursday.
Another neighbor, Steven Fisher, described him as “skittish.”
“His demeanor, the way he moved, always looking around,” Fisher said. “I got a bad vibe from him.”
The blog posts
One avenue investigators were pursuing are five blog posts on a website left by someone with an email address associated with Mercer.
The posts were left under the username lithium_love. Two of them were specifically about recent shootings: one about Vester Flanagan, who killed two local news reporters in Virginia, and one about the officer slain near Houston in August.
Speaking of Flanagan on August 31, the blog post reads: “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.”
Read more: CNN