ROSEBURG –– The gunman who killed nine people and wounded seven others in Oregon had targeted Christians, the father of one of the victims says.
Named as Chris Harper Mercer, the gunman opened fire yesterday inside a classroom at Umpqua Community College.
Thirteen weapons were recovered, six at the school and seven at his home, the police said. All were bought legally.
Mercer had body armour, three pistols and a rifle when he was shot and killed by police officers after a gun battle.
It also emerged that he enlisted in the army in 2008, but he was discharged after spending less than a month in basic training, a US Army spokeswoman told the BBC.
She did not disclose why he was discharged, citing privacy rules.
Stacy Boylan, whose daughter survived the shooting, told American television network CNN that his daughter described to him how the gunman asked his victims to state their religion before shooting them.
“‘Are you a Christian?’” he would ask them, “and ‘If you are a Christian stand up’,” the father recalled.
Boylan said the gunman told the victims: “Because you’re a Christian you’re going to see God in just about one second.”
Another student who survived the shooting, Kortney Moore, gave a similar account to a local newspaper The News-Review.
The attacker was identified by unnamed officers, as local police refused to release his name.
Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said he did not wish to give the gunman “the credit he probably sought prior to this horrific and cowardly act”.
However, the sheriff has come under fire for his stance opposing gun control measures in the past.
Twenty-four hours after a 26-year-old gunman went on a ruthless shooting spree, the college is cordoned off by police tape, a Pray For Rosebury sign up against the fence.
Just 200 metres up the road at Del Ray Cafe, local residents are heartbroken by the tragedy.
“This is a close-knit community. Everyone knows everyone. We have a group of professors from the college for breakfast every Friday. They were in shock this morning. Everyone is devastated,” the manager said.
Customer Victor Moffett, 82, wired the electrics in the science building –– where some of the victims lost their lives –– 30 years ago.
“It’s terrible. A neighbour called me yesterday saying her friend’s daughter had been shot in the leg. She was really upset. I never thought I’d see something like that where I live,” he said.
Another local couple in their 60s, who wished to remain anonymous, were visibly angry.
“[The gunman] thought he could make a splash –– and he did. Now Obama is using it to jump-start gun crime. That doesn’t work here. It’s too bad they couldn’t get him as soon as he fired the first shot,” the man said.
Hours after the attack, President Obama reiterated demands for tighter gun laws, saying prayers are “no longer enough”.
Candidates vying to replace Obama in office have begun to weigh in as well.
The gunman was reportedly born in Britian nd moved to the United States as a young boy.
A man identified as the gunman’s father Ian Mercer told American media he was “just as shocked as everybody” by his son’s actions.
The killer’s motive is not known, although police said they were investigating reports that he had warned of his intentions on social media.
In an online profile appearing to belong to the gunman, he listed hobbies including the Internet and “killing zombies”, described his politics as “conservative, republican” and said he was spiritual but not religious.
Lorie Andrews, who lives opposite the campus, said she heard what sounded like fireworks and when she came out of her home she saw students streaming out.
“One girl came out wrapped in a blanket with blood on her,” she said.
Hannah Miles, 19, said that she and fellow students were led to a nearby bookshop, where they hid in a back room.
Hundreds attended a vigil to remember the victims yesterday evening.