An Army veteran in his first week of classes at the Oregon community college where at least nine people were killed in a mass shooting Thursday was seriously wounded as he tried to prevent the gunman from entering a classroom, family members told multiple media outlets.
The Daily Beast reported that Chris Mintz, 30, had enrolled at Umpqua Community College with the goal of becoming a fitness trainer. Prior to that, Mintz had served in the Army for over a decade after graduating from his North Carolina high school in 2003. He has one son, Tyrik, who turned six years old on Thursday.
Relatives said Mintz told them that he tried to keep 26-year-old Christopher Harper Mercer from entering the classroom to carry out his evil plan to kill as many people as possible. Authorities say Mercer killed at least nine people and wounded at least seven others before he was killed in an exchange of gunfire with police.
Mintz's aunt, Wanda, told Q13Fox that her nephew tried to block the door, but was shot three times by Harper Mercer. She added that after Mintz hit the floor, he looked at the gunman and said, "It's my son's birthday, it's my son's birthday." The gunman then shot him two more times.
The Winston-Salem Journal reported Mintz was hit in the abdomen, upper back, left hand, and once in each leg. An orthopedic surgeon also determined that both Mintz's legs were broken.
"He could have very easily died," Wanda Mintz said. "I really think that if he wasn't such a strong, young guy, he may have died."
None of the five shots that hit Mintz struck any vital organs, and he is expected to recover.
"His vital signs are OK. He's going to have to learn to walk again," cousin Ariana Earnhardt told Q13Fox, "but he walked away with his life and that's more than so many other people did."
Mercer specifically targeted Christians, three witnesses said, while online accounts linked to the shooter expressed disdain for organized religion.
Investigators have shed very little light publicly on Mercer's possible motive for the shooting. However, reports indicated they were examining Mercer's online presence very closely. One law enforcement official described Mercer to The New York Times as appearing to be "an angry young man who was very filled with hate." Another official said investigators were poring over what he described as "hateful"writings by Mercer. Oregon's top federal prosecutor told The Oregonian newspaper that authorities had heard rumors that the gunman had issued "some sort of race-related manifesto" before the shooting.
Kortney Moore, 18, told the Roseburg News-Review that she was in a Writing 115 class when one shot came through the window. Moore said she saw her teacher get shot in the head. The shooter then reportedly told the students to get on the ground before asking people to stand up and state their religion. He then began firing. Moore said she was lying on the ground with people who had been shot.
Janet Willis told the Los Angeles Times that her 18-year-old granddaughter, Ana Boylan, had been shot in the back and was airlifted to a hospital in Eugene. Willis said Boylan told her that the gunman asked others in the classroom to rise and state their religion.
"If they said they were Christians, they were shot again," Willis said. "[Boylan and another wounded girl] just laid on the ground and pretended they were dead."
The Daily Beast reported that a MySpace page bearing Mercer's name featured an image of him holding a gun, as well as images of Irish Republican Army propaganda. The website also reported that Mercer created an online dating profile that listed "organized religion" as one of his "dislikes." The profile also described Mercer's political views as "conservative, republican."
The New York Post identified the dating site as SpiritualPassions.com and reported that Harper used the screen name "Ironcross45," a possible reference to a WWII decoration awarded to Nazi soldiers.
The Beast reported that the MySpace page is registered to Torrance, Calif., where law enforcement officials said Mercer lived before moving to Oregon.
Federal law enforcement officials told The New York Times they were examining an online conversation on the anonymous message board 4chan that was posted the night before the shooting. In that conversation, one writer says ""Some of you guys are all right [sic][. Don't go to school tomorrow if you are in the northwest."
The post made no mention of a shooting, Umpqua Community College, or Roseburg, but did include a photo of a crudely drawn frog with a gun used regularly in Internet memes. The messages that followed spoke of mass shootings, with some egging on and even offering tips to the original poster.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.