The Umpqua shooter has been named as Chris Harper Mercer, a 26-year-old who lived with his mother at an apartment only a few miles from the college.
American media reports said he was born in England and moved to the US at a young age: his stepsister, Carmen Nesnick, told CBS Los Angeles that he travelled to the US as a young boy. Other accounts report that Nesnick specified that Harper-Mercer was born in England.
Harper-Mercer was the son of Ian Mercer and Laurel Margaret Harper. Mercer and Harper filed for divorce on 6 June 2006. He appears to have left an online footprint that hints at interest in mass shootings as well as apparent support for the IRA.
He also appears to have been a prolific user of the file-sharing system Bittorrent.
An email address, “[email protected]”, was found to be associated with a Chris Harper Mercer of Winchester, Oregon, via a public records search. That address is linked to an account on the torrent upload site kat-ph.proxy-x.com, which bears the username “Lithium_Love”.
The final video uploaded by Lithium_Love to the torrent site, just three days ago, was a BBC documentary called Surviving Sandy Hook about the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.
Other uploads include PDFs of the occult magazine Phenomena, conspiracy-themed documentaries including Lost Secrets of the Illuminati, and assorted soft pornography.
There is also a blog attached to the upload account. The first entry was posted on 6 July 2015 and is titled “The material world is a lie.” It says: “Most people will spend hours standing in front of stores just to buy a new iphone … I used to be like that, always concerned about what clothes I had, rather than whether or not I was happy. But not anymore.
“Since then I have learned the truth that such attachments are falsehoods and will only bring misery. This is my first blog post, there will be more to come.”
Other blogposts complain about the uploading habits of other users. Another bemoans the death of horror filmmaker Wes Craven.
A Myspace page bearing Mercer’s name is filled with pictures of masked gunmen and references to the IRA, including a picture of the front page of a the Irish republican newspaper An Phoblacht, bearing the headline “British Army Could Not Defeat IRA”. Another photo to the page carries the words “IRA undefeated army”.
The page gives Mercer’s home location as Torrance, California. A Whitepages page – which tracks addresses and phone numbers – gives two addresses for Mercer: one in Torrance, California, and the other in Winchester, Oregon. The latter is also the address associated with the registration of the “ironcross45” email address.
Using that email address, Mercer also appears to have advertised for penpals on the website Morgue Pals, which describes itself as “the hippest place for pen pals who identify with any sort of alternative culture”.
In his advertisement, Mercer, then aged 20, said he was looking for email pals and described his hobbies as “music movies and news”.
In his profile, he described himself as: “I’m 20 years old, in college, I like to listen to music, mostly goth/punk/industrial/electronic, and I love to watch movies, Horror movies are the best, but i also like some action films, depending on the type, and I like crime dramas as well.“
He added: “I’m looking for penpals who are similar to me, but anyone is welcome to email me.”
A posting on the Spiritual Passions dating and social networking site uses a picture that appears to be Mercer under the user name IRONCROSS45, which Mercer also 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”.
The email address [email protected] is also associated with a crowdfunding webpage to help the user pay for uploading and storing bittorrent files for downloading videos as well. According to the cached version of the webpage, the most recent video uploaded was Collection Of Hot Lesbians (Nudes) Vol. 8.
Two phone numbers associated with the name appeared to have been disconnected.
A profile on the site belonging to Mercer on the website Spiritual Singles, which advertises itself as “a free online dating & social networking site specifically for spiritual singles,” and bears a picture of the same person as Mercer’s Myspace page, the alleged killer describes himself politically as a “conservative, republican” whose hobbies are “internet, killing zombies, movies, music, reading” and who lives with parents. In the profile, the personality type he is looking for is “intellectual, punk, introvert, loner, lover, geek, nerd” with an “individuality” of “piercings, psychic, tattoos, vampire”. His preferred religious views are “Pagan, Wiccan, Not Religious, but Spiritual” as well.
On the image-sharing message-board 4chan, rumours were flying on Thursday night that the killer may have been one of their own. In an anonymous post at 1:19am on Thursday morning on the /r9k board – all posts to 4chan are anonymous – someone said “Some of you guys are alright. Don’t go to school tomorrow if you are in the northwest.”
There is no way of verifying that the post came from the shooter.
A spokesperson for the Douglas County sheriff’s department, which is handling the investigation, said it could “neither confirm nor deny” at this point that they were investigating the post, though federal officials reportedly told the New York Times that they were doing so.
It is not known if Mercer was affiliated with the college, but his name was listed as a production assistant for an upcoming production of the Noel Coward play Blithe Spirit at Umpqua.
The gunman’s father, Ian Mercer, said he was “just as shocked as everybody” at his son’s actions. Speaking from his home in the US, he 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. Shocked is all I can say.”