The gunman who killed nine people at an Oregon college had served in the U.S. Army for about a month in 2008 before being discharged for failing to meet administrative standards, military records showed.
Christopher Harper Mercer was enlisted from Nov. 5 until Dec. 11 in 2008 in Fort Jackson, S.C., according to the records.
CNN, citing law enforcement sources, said Mercer had left behind writings that showed animosity toward black people. Authorities said they had recovered 13 legally purchased guns at his apartment and on his person since the shooting.
Of the13 weapons, six were found at the university and seven at the shooter's residence, authorities said at a news conference on Friday. Special Agent Celinez Nunez of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said all weapons in the shooter's possession were legally purchased. Weapons recovered at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg included five pistols and a rifle.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Mercer was a "hate-filled" individual who had anti-religion, anti-government and white supremacy leanings, according to two law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation quoted by the newspaper.
During the Thursday rampage, Mercer, 26, wore body armor and had extra ammunition, although it is unclear whether he carried the ammunition during the shooting or left it in his car, a federal source said Friday.
Police were inspecting all of the cars left in school lots, said the federal source, who was not identified because the investigation is continuing.
Residents of the quiet Oregon town struggled to comprehend the carnage left by the latest U.S. mass shooting as investigators puzzled over what drove a young gunman to kill nine people -- apparently targeting some because they were Christian -- in a college classroom before he died in an exchange of gunfire with police.
The Thursday late-morning shooting rampage at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, a former timber town of 20,000 on the western edge of the Cascade Mountains, ranked as the deadliest mass killing this year in the United States.
In one classroom, the gunman, who carried mutiple guns, appeared to pick out Christian students for killing, according to witnesses.
“He said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second,'” said Stacy Boylan, the father of one injured woman, Anastasia Boylan. “And then he shot and killed them.”
The gunman stormed into a classroom in Snyder Hall on campus, shot a professor at point-blank range, then ordered cowering students to stand up and state their religion before he shot them one by one, according to survivors' accounts.
Seven people were hospitalized, three of them listed as critical.
The killer died after exchanging gunfire with two police officers who confronted him.
Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin vowed never to utter the shooter's name calling the killings 'a horrific act of cowardice.'
In a photo posted on what was believed to be his MySpace profile, a young man with a shaved head and dark-rimmed eyeglasses stares into the camera while holding a rifle.
During the shooting, students in a classroom next door heard several shots, one right after the next, and their teacher told them to leave.
"We began to run," student Hannah Miles said. "A lot of my classmates were going every which way. We started to run to the center of campus. And I turned around, and I saw students pouring out of the building."
At least nine people were killed and seven others wounded Thursday, the fourth day of classes at Umpqua Community College in this former timber town 180 miles south of Portland. The worst mass shooting in recent Oregon history was raising questions about security at the college with about 3,000 students.
"I suspect this is going to start a discussion across the country about how community colleges prepare themselves for events like this," former college president Joe Olson said.
Mercer lived in an apartment complex in nearby Winchester, where investigators found a number of firearms, Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said Friday. Details about the number and type of guns would be released later, he said.
A neighbor, Bronte Harte, told The Associated Press that Mercer "seemed really unfriendly" and would "sit by himself in the dark in the balcony with this little light."
Harte said a woman she believed to be Mercer's mother also lived upstairs and was "crying her eyes out" Thursday.
Social profiles linked to Mercer suggested he was fascinated by the IRA, frustrated by traditional organized religion and tracked other mass shootings.
There didn't seem to be many recent connections on the social media sites linked to Mercer, with his MySpace page just showing two friends.
In addition to the MySpace page, Mercer appeared to have at least one online dating profile, a torrents streaming account and a blog.
On a torrents streaming site and blog that appeared to belong to Mercer, posts referenced multiple shootings and downloads included several horror films and a documentary on a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. A blog post urged readers to watch the online footage of Vester Flanagan shooting two former colleagues on live TV in Virginia, while another lamented materialism as preventing spiritual development.
A MySpace page that appeared to belong to Mercer included several photos and graphics of the Irish Republican Army as well as a picture of Mercer holding a rifle.
Mercer previously lived in the Los Angeles-area suburb of Torrance with his mother. Neighbors there recalled him as uncommunicative.
His father, Ian Mercer, said late Thursday that it's been a "devastating day" for him and his family, and he has been talking to police and the FBI about the shooting. He spoke to KABC-TV and several other media outlets gathered outside his house in Tarzana, California.
Step-sister Carmen Nesnick said the shooting didn't make sense.
"All he ever did was put everyone before himself, he wanted everyone to be happy," she told KCBS-TV.
Hanlin, the sheriff, said Thursday that he was not going to say the shooter's name because that's what he would have wanted.
"I will not name the shooter. I will not give him the credit he probably sought prior to this horrific and cowardly act," said a visibly angry Hanlin.
Hundreds went to a candlelight vigil Thursday night, with many raising candles as the hymn "Amazing Grace" was played.
Sam Sherman, a former student, said the school helped broaden his opportunities.
"That's all I could think about today. There's 10, 9 kids who won't get those doors opened," he said.
Roseburg is in Douglas County, a politically conservative region west of the Cascade Range where people like to hunt and fish. But it's no stranger to school gun violence. A freshman at the local high school shot and wounded a fellow student in 2006.
'WE'VE BECOME NUMB"
At the White House, a visibly angry President Barack Obama challenged Americans across the political spectrum to press their elected leaders to enact tougher firearms-safety laws.
He lashed out at the National Rifle Association gun lobby for blocking reforms and lamented how common mass shootings had become.
"Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here, at this podium, ends up being routine," he said. "We've become numb to this."
Residents at an apartment house a short distance from campus where the suspect lived recognized him from photos and described him as edgy.
A man identifying himself as Ian Mercer, the gunman's father, spoke briefly to a throng of reporters and camera crews outside his home in Los Angeles on Thursday night.
"It's been a devastating day, devastating for me and my family," he said, according to a transcript provided by KNBC-TV.
Authorities offered no motive for the shooting. Hanlin, the county sheriff, said an investigation was underway by homicide detectives and federal agents. Residents of Roseburg, about 260 miles (420 km) south of Portland, were left to ponder the how and why of the violence.
"ARE YOU A CHRISTIAN?"
Accounts from survivors were chilling.
Stacy Boylan told CNN his daughter recalled seeing her professor being shot point blank as the assailant stormed into the classroom.
"He was able to stand there and start asking people one by one what their religion was," Boylan said, relating the ordeal as described by his daughter. "'Are you a Christian?' he would ask them. ... 'If you're a Christian, stand up. Good. Because you're a Christian, you're going to see God in just about one second,' and he shot and killed them. And he kept going down the line, doing this to people."
Another family member, Autumn Vican, described to NBC News what her brother J.J. witnessed in the room where the shootings occurred. According to NBC: “Vicari said at one point the shooter told people to stand up before asking whether they were Christian or not. Vicari’s brother told her that anyone who responded ‘yes’ was shot in the head. If they said ‘other’ or didn’t answer, they were shot elsewhere in the body, usually the leg.”
Scores of people huddled at a somber candlelight vigil in a park on Thursday night.
"We need to start loving each other as people ... or our nation is going to start falling apart," said Michael Sprague, 35, a businessman who lives in the Roseburg area.
The violence in Roseburg was the latest in a flurry of mass killings in recent years across the United States and the deadliest so far in 2015. It surpassed the nine killed in a gun battle between motorcycle gangs in Waco, Texas, in May, and the nine who died in the rampage at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June.
Not counting Thursday's incident, 293 mass shootings have been reported this year, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker website, a crowd-sourced database kept by anti-gun activists that logs events in which four or more people are shot.
The violence has fueled demands for more gun control in the United States, where ownership of firearms is protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and for better care for the mentally ill.
Those grieving at Thursday night's vigil said they were still trying to understand the tragedy.
"You know, there's all this stuff in the news and with politics going on about the Second Amendment and gun control," said Ken Shemel. "It's like, 'Come on, guys, just give us a second to breathe,' you know?"
© 2021 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.