Sadly, the post-mass-shooting killer profile has become something of a media tradition in the US of late as a string of violence that includes the execution of nine African American churchgoers in Charleston and the on-air murder of a TV reporter has delivered a shock to the collective psyche of Americans and served notice that tragedies like those that occurred at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook may well become commonplace going forward.
The latest “incident” in the mass shooting tradition came on Thursday when someone described only as “a 20-year-old man” went on a rampage at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. According to some eyewitness accounts, the shooter demanded that victims “stand up and state their religion” before summarily executing them.
On Friday, the first details are beginning to emerge about the identity of the shooter. Here’s Reuters with more:
The man killed by police on Thursday after he fatally shot nine people at a community college in southern Oregon was a nervy 26-year-old who lived close to the campus and described himself as shy, according to neighbors, media and online reports.
A law enforcement source said multiple agencies had identified the shooter as Chris Harper-Mercer. Online directories list a man of that name as having lived in Torrance, California, before moving to Winchester, Oregon.
The killer used four guns, including a type of assault rifle, in the classroom attack, CNN said. Seven people were also wounded at the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, a timber town of about 20,000 people that adjoins Winchester.
A photo posted on a MySpace profile belonging to someone named Chris Harper-Mercer, from Torrance, showed a young man with a shaved head, dark-rimmed glasses and a serious expression. He was holding a long-barreled gun.
A neighbor next door to the Winchester building said Thursday night he recognized online photos of Harper-Mercer as being his neighbor.
In an Internet posting on the Spiritual Passions dating and social networking site, a user posted a picture that appears to be Harper-Mercer under the user name IRONCROSS45, a handle Harper-Mercer used as his email.
He described himself on the site as a 26-year-old, mixed-race "man looking for a woman." He said he was "not religious, but spiritual," and was a "teetotaler" living with his parents and a conservative Republican. Socially, he said, he was "shy at first" and "better in small groups." He described himself as "always dieting" and looking for "the yin to my yang."
And here’s further color from The New York Times:
Chris Harper Mercer, the man identified as the gunman in the deadly rampage at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., on Thursday, was a withdrawn young man who neighbors said wore the same outfit every day — combat boots, green Army pants and a white T-shirt — and was close to his mother, who fiercely protected him.
Neighbors in Winchester, Ore., and Torrance, Calif., where Mr. Mercer, 26, lived with his mother, Laurel Harper, remember a reclusive and seemingly fragile young man with a shaved head and dark glasses who seemed to recoil from social interaction.
“He always seemed anxious,” said Rosario Lucumi, 51, who rode the same bus in Torrance as Mr. Mercer when she went to work. She said she believed he took it to El Camino College. “He always had earphones in, listening to music.”
“He and his mother were really close,” said Ms. Lucumi, who estimated that Mr. Mercer and his mother, who shared a small one-bedroom apartment in Torrance, lived there for less than a year. “They were always together.”
Bryan Clay, 18, said he once asked Mr. Mercer why he wore “a military get-up” every day.
“He kind of just didn’t want of talk about it” and changed the subject, Mr. Clay said.
“He didn’t say anything about himself,” he added.
Mr. Mercer appeared to have sought community on the Internet. A picture of him holding a rifle appeared on a MySpace page with a post expressing a deep interest in the Irish Republican Army. It included footage from the conflict in Northern Ireland set to “The Men Behind the Wire,” an Irish republican song, and several pictures of gunmen in black balaclavas. Another picture showed the front page of An Phoblacht, the party newspaper of Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the I.R.A.
A picture of Mr. Mercer also appeared on a long-dormant dating website profile registered in Los Angeles. On it, he described himself as an “introvert” with a dislike for “organized religion.”
Here are the images from Mercer’s MySpace page...
...here is the above mentioned "Spiritual Passions" profile...
...and here is a review penned by someone with the same username (IRONCROSS45) after purchasing Nazi attire:
According to reports, Mercer's professed "dislike for organized religion" led him to "target" Christians, although the chilling details presented below may simply indicate that Mercer was attempting to terrorize his victims before killing them. Via CNN:
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."
Mercer's blog posts, which were penned under the name "lithium_love" have apparently been removed (see here) but here are some excerpts via CNN and via another blogger who copied the entries before they were taken down. The first two paragraphs reference Virginia shooter Vester Flanagan:
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.
And I have to say, anyone who knew him could have seen this coming. People like him have nothing left to live for, and the only thing left to do is lash out at a society that has abandoned them.
I just read about the houston cop shooting. Figured I’d post this since the response to my previous blog post on vester flanagan was so interesting. On the houston shooting it was reported that the suspect was influenced by black lives matter protests/movement. Although I don’t know if thats true, with all the issues about police and blacks/protestors in the news the past couple of years, it certainly seems like someone would be inspired to take action. With the constant chants of anti police rhetoric this was bound to happen. I don’t disagree that police brutality and excessive use of force is a problem, but killing an officer that never did anything to you is not the answer.
This whole event seems similar to the one in new york earlier this year where that guy killed those two cops sitting in a parked car. The inflammatory rhetoric on both sides, whether warranted or not will only continue to agitate the situation and events such as these will happen more and more. These are just my thoughts on the matter. Will continue to post more blogs on related subjects, as well any interesting thoughts I may have.
We'll leave it to readers to draw their own conclusions as to what this says about race relations in America, religion, the copy cat effect, and the outright disintegration of society. We close by noting that sadly, we doubt this is the last time we'll find ourselves profiling someone who carries out a mass shooting and we leave you with the following rather unnerving bit from The New York Times piece excerpted above:
In the offline world, Mr. Mercer’s mother sought to protect him from all manner of neighborhood annoyances, former neighbors in Torrance said, from loud children and barking dogs to household pests. Once, neighbors said, she went door-to-door with a petition to get the landlord to exterminate cockroaches in her apartment, saying they bothered her son.
“She said, ‘My son is dealing with some mental issues, and the roaches are really irritating him,’ ” Julia Winstead, 55, said.