The account coming out of the mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon, on Thursday was chilling: The gunman had asked Umpqua Community College students if they were Christian, and then told those who were that they would "see God in just about one second." Then he opened fire, killing nine.
Stacy Boylan, whose daughter Anastasia Boylan was wounded in the attack, relayed the account to CNN.
And Korney Moore, 18, gave a similar account to NRToday, telling the paper that the gunman asked the group about their religion before shooting.
A law enforcement official also told the New York Times that 26-year-old Chris Harper-Mercer had asked his victims about their religion before firing.
The family of Jason Johnson, one of the students killed in the shooting, said in a statement Friday he was a proud Christian who had "finally found his path."
Authorities have not released a motive for the shooting rampage, but the multiple reports on the Harper-Mercer's religious inquisition of his victims has, for many Christians, already answered that question. On Friday, the collective sense of some of their own being attacked for their faith prompted a wave of support for Christians on social media with the hashtag #YesImAChristian.
Whatever insight could be grasped from his background, posts he made on social media and online dating profiles — along with shocked reaction from his family members — were all that was available, providing only a jumbled insight into his thoughts.
In one profile, he described himself as "not religious, but spiritual."
But the idea that Christians were a targeted group in the shooting took hold on social media Friday, drawing in well-known conservative figures.
Conservative commentator Laura Ingraham referred to the Roseburg victims as "Christian Martyrs."
A picture posted by Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson had more than 630,000 likes on Facebook as of Friday evening.
And Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey suggested on Facebook that since Christians are so often targeted for their beliefs, that those "who are serious about their faith" should "think about getting a handgun carry permit."
Though some Christians may be persecuted in other parts of the world, statistics show they are not often targeted in the U.S.
Of the nearly 6,000 hate crime incidents recorded in the United States in 2013, Christians targeted for their faith comprised less than 2% of victims, according to the FBI.
Of those attacked because of their faith in 2013, Christians were less likely to be targeted than Jews, Muslims, and those with religious affiliations marked as "other," the FBI reported.
Harper-Mercer's online writings seem to simmer over a wide-array of frustrations and anger toward government, religion, black men, women, and himself.
A source told ABC News that Harper-Mercer gave papers and a thumb drive to someone at the school before the shooting that were filled with statements about "sexual frustration" and "racial animus toward black men."
The 26-year-old also looked up posts about conspiracy theories, he criticized the Black Lives Matter movement, and expressed sympathy for the black television anchor who shot and killed two former colleagues on air. He also complained about having no girlfriend and of being a virgin.
Still, concerns that people Umpqua Community College may have been killed because of their religious beliefs spurred a flurry of reactions on the national stage Friday.
Hilary Bernstein, regional director of the Anti Defamation League's Pacific Northwest division, released a statement calling the reports "deeply troubling."
"If it is true that the gunman singled out victims because of their religious beliefs, it is deeply troubling and a reminder of the danger posed by those who harbor hatred and prejudice in their hearts."
Salvador Hernandez is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Salvador Hernandez at email@example.com.
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