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Witnesses: Oregon college shooter targeted Christians

By Amy R. Connolly
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Witnesses: Oregon college shooter targeted Christians
A physician said 10 people who were wounded in the mass shooting at an Oregon's Umpqua Community College were shot in the head, throat and torso. Photo courtesy of Umpqua Community College/Facebook

ROSEBURG, Ore., Oct. 2 (UPI) -- A physician said at least one of those wounded in a mass shooting at an Oregon community college was in critical condition Friday, but the others may be released from the hospital today.

Dr. Jason Gray, chief medical officer at Mercy Medical Center, said the 10 patients brought in after the Umpqua Community College rampage were shot in the head, throat and torso. One died in surgery, and three were transferred to a high-level trauma center at a nearby hospital.

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The remaining patients -- men and women of varying ages -- have been or may be released soon.

Law enforcement officials said at least 10 people were killed in the shooting Thursday, including the gunman, Chris Harper Mercer. Witnesses said Mercer asked victims to stand before asking them if they were Christian. Anyone who responded "yes" was shot in the head.

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"The initial emotions are disbelief. It can't be happening, and then its focus on treating the patients," Gray said. "It's still very raw for a lot of people, and I think a lot of people are still quite numb."

One witness' father said Mercer said, "Good, because you're a Christian, you're going to see God in just about one second.'" Another witness said Mercer told them, "This won't hurt much" or "This won't hurt for long."

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If they didn't answer or said "other," they were shot somewhere else in the body, usually the leg, one of the victims' relatives said. Another victim quoted Mercer as saying, "I've been waiting to do this for years," before shooting a professor point blank.

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Mercer was killed in a firefight with Douglas County sheriff's deputies at the college in rural Oregon. Local police did not identify Mercer as the shooter, but other law enforcement sources confirmed his name.

Mercer apparently wore the same thing every day -- combat boots, camouflage pants and a plain brown or white T-shirt. Mercer was among five students listed in the 2009 graduating class at Switzer Learning Center, the California-based newspaper The Daily Breeze reported. The school teaches students with emotional disturbances, autism spectrum disorders and behavioral problems.

Neighbors said Mercer lived "most of his life" with his mother in the Los Angeles area and had recently moved to Oregon. He was described as reclusive.

He apparently spent a lot of time on the Internet. On his MySpace page, he expressed interest in the Irish Republican Army, an outlawed paramilitary group committed to overthrowing Northern Ireland.

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He also appeared on a dating website, describing himself as an "introvert" with a dislike for "organized" religion.

Federal investigators are trying to determine whether Mercer is connected to a thread on 4chan that discussed a school shooting. The 4chan website is an anonymous group of web forums with users who do not have to identify themselves.

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