Saturday 24 February 2018

College gunman was inspired by IRA killers

A screen-grab of the MySpace page of multiple killer Chris Harper-Mercer, which he adorned with images glorifying the IRA
A screen-grab of the MySpace page of multiple killer Chris Harper-Mercer, which he adorned with images glorifying the IRA
A woman cries while holding her daughter during a vigil in Roseburg, Oregon
Gunman Chris Harper-Mercer

Barney Henderson

The British-born gunman who killed 10 people in a campus shooting in Oregon in the US had an 'Ireland Freedom Fighters' album on his MySpace page.

Chris Harper-Mercer's website also contained a picture of the front page of the republican newspaper 'An Phoblacht', carrying the headline "British Army Could Not Defeat IRA."

Also included was a photograph with the words "IRA undefeated army".

Harper-Mercer also posted a three-minute video on the social-networking site, featuring IRA members, brandishing guns and wearing balaclavas.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said It was "desperately distressing" that Harper-Mercer was seemingly influenced by certain IRA-related images

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said "radical groups" would always attract followers.

She added: "This is why we have to crack down hard. When you have a culture of violence in any country, it can be used as an excuse. But this means we have to continually work for peace."

On his dating profile on the website Spiritual Passions, Harper Mercer wrote that he did not like "organised religion".

His username on the site was ironcross45 - a reference to the iconography of the Nazi period in Germany.

The gunman targeted Christians, according to news reports.

Stacy Boylan, whose daughter survived the shooting, told US 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.

Mr 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 gunman, Chris Harper-Mercer, opened fire inside a classroom at Umpqua Community College, in Roseburg, Oregon.

He is reported to have idolised the IRA and also to have harboured a deep hatred of organised religion.

He is also reported to have left behind a rambling, lengthy note.

Police said that he had body armour, three pistols, a rifle and five extra magazines of ammunition.

Harper-Mercer, whose father is English, was killed in a subsequent shoot-out with police.

Authorities investigating the massacre said they had found a number of firearms at the 26-year-old's apartment.

His family last night spoke of their shock over the incident.

His father, Ian Mercer, said he was "just as shocked as everybody else" at his son's actions.

Speaking with a distinctive English accent from his home in the US, Mr Mercer told reporters: "I've just been talking to the police and the FBI and all the details I have right now is what you guys (reporters) have already.

"I can't answer any questions right now, I don't want to answer any questions right now.

"It's been a devastating day, devastating for me and my family."

Shortly after the shooting, the front-runner in the race to secure the nomination as Republican candidate for the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump, called the 'Washington Post' and described the "terrible tragedy" as sounding like "another mental health problem".

He added that it appeared mass shootings were more frequent.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, said "we are seeing these mass: murders happen again and again and again" and called on people in the US to "get the political will to do everything we can to keep people safe".

Speaking about the mass shooting in Roseburg, one witness said that 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 centre of campus. And I turned around, and I saw students pouring out of the building."


Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama launched a stringent attack on America's gun laws after the mass shooting in Oregon.

The president, who has said his inability to reform gun laws has been the biggest frustration of his two terms in office, said "our thoughts and prayers are not enough".

In one of the most impassioned press conferences of his presidency, Mr Obama expressed his sheer disbelief that the gun lobby and his Republican opponents could not see that weak gun legislation leads to more shootings.

Irish Independent

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