Before Christopher Harper-Mercer shot and killed nine people, he asked them about their faith, The Associated Press reported.
"If they said they were Christian, he shot them in the head," Janet Willis told the AP after visiting her granddaughter, Anastasia Boylan, in the hospital. Boylan was in the classroom at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, where Harper-Mercer opened fire Thursday.
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While Harper-Mercer's motives remain unclear, Twitter and Facebook have been inundated with #YesIAmAChristian posts, in support of the victims of the mass shooting.
"Would you say 'Yes, I'm a Christian' with a gun in your face? Help us honor the victims of the Oregon shooting by making their last words trend! Watch and share! #YesImAChristian," former television and radio evangelist Joshua Feuerstein wrote on Facebook.
Recording artist and author Kyle Kupecky said he was praying for the families and friends of the victims. "The victims were singled out because of their Christian faith. May we honor their courage and passion for Jesus! #YesImAChristian #PrayforOregon."
"As to this #YesImAChristian movement, I am not a Christian, but NOBODY should be murdered for their religious beliefs," Twitter user Carl Hallowell said.
Even Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson chimed in, posting a photo of himself holding a sign that said, "I am a Christian." He also changed his Facebook profile picture to display a graphic with the hashtag. As of Saturday, the photo had 1,003,841 likes and 150,461 shares. The profile picture garnered another 243,993 likes and 102,782 shares.
As President Barack Obama and many others have advocated for gun control in the aftermath of the shooting, posts were bound to get political.
"Dear @POTUS: We are STILL waiting to hear you say that murdering Christians due to religious beliefs is unacceptable. #YesIAmAChristian," Twitter user @Maxicat said.
"#YesImAChristian and embarrassed by the right wing nut jobs that have hijacked Christianity for their nefarious purposes," @permax said on Twitter.
"#YesImAChristian but I do believe in stricter gun control laws," @spindoctor84 wrote on Twitter.
Others such as @MisterNorthwest didn't share the #YesIAmAChristian sentiment: "The #YesIAmAChristian was started by people hijacking an awful massacre to get attention they don't need."
But the majority of posts declared religious beliefs, offering prayers and thoughts for the victims.
Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of American Pastor Saeed Abedini imprisoned in Iran, participated, saying she's "proud of those who stood up in the face of evil," proclaiming their Christian faith.
In the Facebook post, Abedini recalled the day in 2004 when she and her husband had guns pointed at their heads by Iranian revolutionary guards. They were told they would be killed if they said they were Christians, she claimed. "I can remember how close I felt Jesus to me and the boldness God gave me to say #YesIAmAChristian! I know that Jesus was with the victims as they stood up and proclaimed their faith. Praying for peace and comfort [for] their families today," Abedini wrote.
Harper-Mercer's social media profiles suggested he was fascinated by the Irish Republican Army and frustrated by traditional organized religion, according to AP. He was described by law enforcement sources as a hate-filled man who struggled with mental health issues.
He opened fired Thursday morning in his English class while heavily armed and wearing a flak jacket, AP reported. Officials had originally said that Harper-Mercer died during an exchange of gunfire with police, but it emerged late Friday that he took his own life after killing nine and wounding nine others.