Harper-Mercer told another student that if she begged for her life, he would spare her. But when the woman began to beg, [Lacey Scroggins] said, “Daddy, he shot her anyway....”If this is accurate, it says something about the shooter's frame of mind. Among conservatives, the massacre is being described as a specifically anti-Christian act, even though there are conflicting accounts of what the shooter said about Christianity:
... Lacey told her father that at one point she could hear a woman tell the gunman, “I'm sorry that you are going through this -- I'm sorry that somebody has hurt you.”
“I bet you are, but it's not good enough,” Lacey remembered the gunman replying, and then, she said, he shot the woman.
Both [Anastasia] Boylan and Scroggins said the gunman shot Christians in the head and wounded others, though there was at least one account that said he treated all religions with the same cold response.Now consider what Dave Cullen, author of the definitive book on the Columbine massacre, wrote in The New Republic in the immediate aftermath of the massacre:
"She hears the shooter in front say, 'You, in that orange shirt, stand up!'" Randy Scoggins said. "'What religion are you? Are you a Christian?' He says 'Yes.' She hears another pop, and she hears a thud as he drops to the ground."
Rand McGowan, who was shot in the hand, told his mother it didn't seem the shooter was deliberately targeting Christians.
"It was more so saying, 'You're going to be meeting your maker,'" Stephanie Salas said.
Already we are hearing statements attributed to the killer: the New York Post reports that he singled out Christians. Other supposed motives are sure to surface, and one or two may prove to be true. But most won’t. Killers say all sorts of things. Some taunt their victims, make fun of them. The Columbine killers taunted kids for being black, jocks, and Christians, and each of those was portrayed as a hate crime against those groups. But the killers also taunted kids for being fat and for wearing ostentatious glasses. (Eric Harris's journals are crammed with hate for every possible group.)It's quite possible that Harper-Mercer hated Christianity, or hated all religions. It's also quite possible that killing someone who professed belief in a just and beneficent God struck him as an especially delightful way to flip the bird at everything society regards as virtuous, and an especially cruel way to inflict emotional pain. The fact that Harper-Mercer offered to spare someone if she begged for her life, then shot her anyway, and the fact that he shot someone who expressed empathy, suggests that inflicting emotional pain was his primary goal, not attacking Christians. But I supposed we'll learn more eventually.
Resist the urge to apply motives. If the killer mentioned a characteristic of a victim, that may simply mean that he noticed it and then used it against the victim to try to inflict more pain. Nothing more.