CRIME
10/03/2015 06:08 pm ET Updated Oct 13, 2015

Oregon Shooter Asked About Religion, Another Survivor Attests

Cheyenne Fitzgerald's recollection is consistent with other witnesses' accounts.
Bonnie Schaan, second from left, speaks about her daughter Cheyanne Fitzgerald, who was critically wounded in Thursday's shoo
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Bonnie Schaan, second from left, speaks about her daughter Cheyanne Fitzgerald, who was critically wounded in Thursday's shooting, outside Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg, Oregon, on Saturday. She is joined by Cheyenne's aunt Colleen Fitzgerald, left, and cousins, Kylie, third from left, and Courtney Fitzgerald.

ROSEBURG, Ore. -- Another survivor of Thursday's mass shooting at an Oregon community college remembers the gunman asking about religion before shooting her, the victim's family members said on Saturday.

Cheyenne Fitzgerald, 16, was shot in the back during the massacre at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. Her kidney was removed and she remains in intensive care.

"The shooter asked what her religion was and she said, 'nothing,'" said the young women's aunt, Colleen Fitzgerald, relaying her niece's account to reporters outside Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg, where the teen is being treated. 

Chris Harper-Mercer, the shooter, still fired on Fitzgerald, despite her not being a Christian.

Fitzgerald's description is consistent with accounts from other witnesses, who also said the shooter asked the victims about their faith before shooting them. But it also adds doubt to claims that the shooter targeted Christians, as some witnesses have implied. 

Janet Willis, whose granddaughter Anastasia Boylan survived the attack, told The Associated Press on Saturday that Boylan recalled the shooter asking each person to state their religion. If they were Christian, Willis told the AP, Harper-Mercer would shoot them in the head. 

However, another survivor, Rand McGowan, told his mother, Stephanie Salas, that Harper-Mercer was not specifically targeting Christians.

"'Do you have a God? Are you Christian? Do you have a religion?' It was more so saying, 'You're going to be meeting your maker. This won't hurt very long.' Then he would shoot them," Salas told the AP.

Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin, who also spoke to reporters on Saturday, did not provide information about the shooter's motive.

Fitzgerald also said Harper-Mercer spared a male student and gave him an envelope to give to police, appearing to confirm Boylan's description of events to her family.

"The shooter gave a student an envelope and said, 'You’re going to be the lucky one,'" Fitzgerald's aunt told reporters.

Bonnie Schaan, Fitzgerald's mother, said her daughter is slowly recovering. "She’s starting to remember things and talk, but she is still jumpy when she hears a noise," Schaan said. "Someone moving a chair will set her off."

Thursday was Fitzgerald's fourth day of college, where she was studying to become a nurse. 

Speaking through tears, Schaan said, "I know my daughter's strong and she's gonna get through this." She noted her daughter posted on Facebook sometime shortly after being shot, writing, "The fucker shot me in the back."

Fitzgerald survived, her aunt said, by playing dead. Schaan was told that Cheyenne had a hand in saving her friend Boylan's life. "That’s my daughter," Schaan said. "That’s Cheyenne." 

Schaan added that Fitzgerald and Boylan were together when the first shots rang out and helped one another. (Boylan's family has said that she, too, survived by playing dead.)

"We are blessed that Cheyenne is here today," Schaan said. 

"I'm sorry for everyone in the community who don't have their children with them," she concluded.

Fitzgerald is one of 9 injured survivors, including Boylan, McGowan and Chris Mintz, the army veteran who heroically charged Harper-Mercer. The shooting left 9 people dead.

Harper-Mercer's family released a statement on Saturday as well, expressing their sorrow and regret for his actions. 

"We are shocked and deeply saddened by the horrific events that unfolded on Thursday, October 1," the family said in a statement tweeted by local TV reporter Kim Eiten. "Our thoughts, our hearts and our prayers go out to all of the families of those who died or are injured."

Hanlin revealed earlier on Saturday that the medical examiner had ruled Mercer-Harper's death a suicide. He reportedly took his own life during a firefight with law enforcement officers.

CONVERSATIONS