The killer at Umpqua Community College (UCC) in Oregon was identified on Thursday evening as Chris Harper-Mercer, 26, of Torrance, California, a Los Angeles suburb. As Howard Portnoy reported earlier, Harper-Mercer died when police shot him to end his killing spree.
A lot of rumors are flying around the web among him right now. There is zero substantiation, from what I can tell, of a report that he was a Muslim. (Charles C. Johnson of Got News posted that report, but his website is hammered right now and the link doesn’t come up. Here’s one of many citations of the Johnson report.)
However, eyewitnesses came forward in the hours after the massacre to report that Harper-Mercer asked each student in turn, in the classroom where he was shooting them, what religion they were. He shot the Christians in the head.
Here’s the account of one girl whose grandmother was present while Harper-Mercer shot his victims:
“The shooter was lining people up and asking if they were Christian,” tweeted a young woman @BodhiLooney who said her grandmother was in the room with the shooter. “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. My grandma just got to my house, and she was in the room. She wasn’t shot, but she is very upset.”
Another student who was present gave this account to news media (as cited at the Christian Examiner link above):
After that the shooter first ordered the class to the ground, [student Kortney] Moore said, and then he told them to get up and say what religion they were.
Then the shooting began and panic ensued, she told the News Review, while the killer, a student at the school, according to the governor, selectively shot in the head those who confessed to being Christian.
Later reporting contradicted the governor’s original statement about Harper-Mercer being a student at UCC. It’s not clear at this point what links he had to the school.
According to relatives in southern California, interviewed by the local CBS affiliate, Harper-Mercer was born in the UK and came to the U.S. as a child. His father remarried at some point and has a family in a nearby suburb.
Harper-Mercer’s mother was apparently living with him in Oregon.
Numerous web-hounds have posted Harper-Mercer’s profile from a dating site, at which he describes himself as “mixed race,” a “teetotaler,” “not religious, but spiritual,” “conservative, republican,” and into, among other things, “killing zombies.”
He said he was looking for a female who was, among other things, “Pagan, Wiccan, Not religious, but Spiritual” – suggesting that his own “not religious, but spiritual” profile may have included an interest in the occult. Harper-Mercer was also looking for someone with the following individuality traits: “piercings, psychic, tattoos, vampire.” (If you’re thinking, “These young people sound terribly lost in a dangerous, lonely fog,” you’re not alone.)
Harper-Mercer also appears to have written at his Torrent account about Vester Flanagan, the shooter who killed the news reporter and cameraman in Virginia, as well as about the killing of Houston-area Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth in late August.
Some bloggers have suggested that Harper-Mercer “idolized” the shooters in these cases, and that he was a major supporter of Black Lives Matter. I include his Torrent posts here so you can judge for yourself, but I think those are ridiculous characterizations. Apparently, Harper-Mercer took an interest in the two events. But he didn’t express support for either shooter. He did seem especially struck by the notoriety Vester Flanagan gained with his killings.
(Harper-Mercer seemed to write well and be thoughtful, in fact. There are some potential clues in his dating profile about susceptibility to radicalization or going round the bend, but they aren’t the kind of thing that would really stand out beforehand.)
The UK Express accurately notes that Harper-Mercer’s MySpace account shows a fascination with the Irish Republican Army and its legacy of terrorism.
Express also thinks it may have found an online transaction by Harper-Mercer in which he bought Nazi memorabilia, but that connection is made through matching his dating-profile user name (ironcross45) with the account name of the purchaser. That may or may not be an accurate connection. In any case, ironcross45 could certainly indicate, by itself, an interest in Nazis.
We’ll find out more in the coming days. I suspect the mainstream media are going to miss the real headline in this case, which is that Harper-Mercer, whatever his motive, went in armed on 1 October to systematically kill Christians.
This is small-town America in southwestern Oregon, not Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, or India. As with the targeted killings of Jews in Europe in the last several years, we’ll be fooling ourselves if we don’t recognize it as a sign of the times.