The gunman who killed three students and wounded five at Michigan State University was a 43-year-old man with a prior weapons violation who fatally shot himself after an hours-long chase that ended in a confrontation with police miles away. from campus, authorities said Tuesday. .
Investigators were still learning why Anthony McRae fired shots inside a student union and academic building shortly before 8:30 p.m. local time Monday.
The shootings led to a campus lockdown and a search for the gunman that ended approximately three hours later.
“We have absolutely no idea what the motive was,” said Chris Rozman, deputy campus police chief, adding that McRae, of Lansing, was not a student or employee of the state of Michigan.
Meanwhile, a school district in Ewing Township, New Jersey, closed for the day after being told McRae, who lived in the area years ago, had a note in his pocket indicating a threat to two schools there.
But it was determined that there was no credible threat, local police later said in a statement shared publicly by the superintendent.
Those killed and injured in the shootings at Berkey Hall and MSU Union, a popular place to eat and study, were all Michigan State students.
Five remained in critical condition at Sparrow Hospital, said Dr. Denny Martin, who fought back tears during a news conference.
“This is still fluid,” Rozman said.
“There are still crime scenes being processed, and we are still in the process of putting the pieces together to try to understand what happened.”
Two of the dead were graduates of separate high schools in the Grosse Pointe district of suburban Detroit.
One was identified by the state of Michigan as Brian Fraser; the other has yet to be publicly revealed.
Alexandria Verner, a graduate of Clawson High School in the Detroit area, also died.
“If you knew her, you loved her and we will always remember the lasting impact she has had on all of us,” Clawson Superintendent Billy Shellenbarger said in an email to families.
The shooting took place in an area of older stately buildings on the north end of Michigan State’s campus, one of the largest in the country at 5,200 acres.
“Our Spartan community is reeling today,” Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Michigan State graduate, said at the briefing.
US President Joe Biden pledged his support during a phone call, he said.
We mourn the loss of beautiful souls and pray for those who continue to fight for their lives. …Another place that is supposed to be about community and togetherness torn apart by bullets and bloodshed,” Ms. Whitmer said.
The state of Michigan has about 50,000 students, including 19,000 who live on the suburban East Lansing campus.
As hundreds of officers toured the campus, about 90 miles northwest of Detroit, the students hid wherever they could.
During that time, police released a photo of the suspect and an “alert citizen” recognized him in the Lansing area, Rozman said.
“That was exactly what we were trying to achieve by posting that image. We had no idea where she was at the time,” the deputy chief said.
Police confronted McRae about five miles from campus in an industrial area, where he killed himself, Rozman said.
McRae was on probation for 18 months through May 2021 for possessing a loaded concealed weapon without a permit, according to the state Department of Corrections.
In the Lansing neighborhood of McRae, there was a large police presence overnight.
Suzanne Shook said she has lived near McRae for about a year.
“We never spoke to him,” Shook said. “When he was walking or riding a bike, he was always simple and he didn’t look at anyone.”
The students, for their part, recalled the terror of the night before.
Dominik Molotky said he was learning about Cuban history around 8:15 pm when he and the other students heard a shot outside the classroom.
He told ABC’s Good Morning America that a few seconds later, the gunman walked in and fired three or four more rounds as the students took cover.
“I was ducking and covering, and the same with the rest of the students. She put down four more rounds and when she was silent for about 30 seconds to a minute two of my classmates started breaking a window and that took about 30 seconds to happen. There was glass everywhere,” Molotky said.
“After that, we broke the window and I got out of there, and then I booked it back to my apartment,” he said. He wasn’t sure if the shots hit any of the students.
Claire Papoulias, a sophomore, described on NBC’s Today show how she and other students rushed to escape from a history class through a window after the gunman entered through a back door and began shooting.
“There was a kid in my class, and he was waiting outside the window, and he was catching people and helping them down,” she said.
“As soon as I fell out of the window, I hit the ground a little bit. I grabbed my backpack and my phone, and I remember running for my life.”
Ryan Kunkel, 22, was attending a class in the Engineering Building when he learned of the shooting through an email from the university.
Kunkel and 13 other students turned off the lights and acted like “there’s a shooter right outside the door,” he said.
“Nothing came out of anyone’s mouth” for more than four hours, he said.
All classes, sports and other activities were canceled for 48 hours.
The university’s interim president, Teresa Woodruff, said it would be a time “to think and cry and come together.”
“This Spartan community, this family, will come together again,” Ms Woodruff said.