MSU shooter was found with 2 legally purchased guns, ammo and a threatening note, officials say

Three people were killed, and five others injured and hospitalized in critical condition in the Monday night shooting at Michigan State University.


The shooter who opened fire on the campus of Michigan State University on Monday night, killing three people and wounding five, was found with two legally purchased guns, ammunition and a note threatening violence, officials said Thursday.

Anthony McRae, 43, was identified as the sole suspect in the shooting. The motive is unclear, as officials said McRae had no apparent affiliation with MSU and took his own life after the attack.

The shooter had two 9 mm handguns on him, as well as additional magazines and ammunition, Chris Rozman of MSU’s Department of Police and Public Safety said at a news conference.

An investigation with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives determined those weapons were purchased legally by McRae, but they were not registered. It’s not clear when or where they were purchased. 

He also confirmed a note was found on the shooter. 

The three slain college students, all from Michigan, were identified as junior Alexandria Verner, 20, of Clawson; sophomore Brian Fraser, 20, of Grosse Pointe; and Arielle Anderson, 19, also of Grosse Pointe.

The five injured victims, also students, were hospitalized at E.W. Sparrow Hospital in Lansing in critical condition. One is now stable, MSU police said Thursday in a tweet.

Investigators leave the scene of a shooting at Berkey Hall at Michigan State University in East Lansing on Tuesday.Sylvia Jarrus for NBC News

The wounded have not been identified.

The Chinese consulate in Chicago said two Chinese students were among the injured.

“After undergoing surgical treatment in the hospital, their lives are out of danger,” the consulate said in a statement noting their family members have been contacted.

The shooter's final confrontation, search of his home

Officials on Thursday shared a breakdown of the final confrontation with the shooter.

Detectives responded to Lake Lansing Road and Larch Street where the suspect was observed walking and two Lansing Police Department officers made contact, approximately 20 feet from him, Michigan State Police Lt. Rene Gonzalez said.

They exited their vehicle and ordered him to show his hands. 

“However, he produced a weapon and killed himself,” Gonzalez said.

Body camera video showed that McRae didn’t say anything to the officers, he said. 

The suspect was found with two handguns, one of which he used to shoot himself, and another in the backpack he was carrying. He also had a loaded magazine "that was full to capacity in his left breast pocket," Gonzalez said.

In the backpack, he had eight loaded magazines of 9 mm ammunition, along with a pencil-size pouch containing 50 rounds of loose 9 mm ammunition. He also had two empty magazines on his person, Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said two pages of notes were found in the suspect's wallet.

“That was the note that indicated where he was going to visit and also kind of gave an indication of why, maybe a motive, but nothing we can actually confirm just yet," Gonzalez said.

People place flowers at the Spartan Statue at Michigan State University on Tuesday, the day after the mass shooting.Sylvia Jarrus for NBC News

The investigation is ongoing. It is believed that McRae acted alone, he said.

Michigan State Police did not share exactly what the note found said, but it threatened businesses, a church and a school district in New Jersey.

“Through our investigation, we found that he had contact with some of those places, he was an employee of the Meyer warehouse at one time. And a couple of the other businesses, it appears that he had some issues with the employees there where he was asked to leave. So it looks like he, possibly a motive for that was he felt slighted and that’s kind of what the note indicated," Gonzalez said.

A search warrant was also secured for McRae’s residence and a cellphone was collected, along with “journals of sorts,” miscellaneous writings and fired 9 mm shell casings, Gonzalez said. 

Gunman's history with police

Lansing Police Chief Ellery Sosebee detailed previous law enforcement encounters with the shooter. 

He said the department had not responded to any welfare checks for the gunman. He said there was one welfare check at the Lansing address linked to him, but “it was not related to the accused.” He said police had not responded to any calls for shots fired at the address. 

Lansing police responded to the gunman’s home in 2005 for a larceny complaint, he had traffic violations in 2006 and 2007, and he was arrested in 2019 for carrying a concealed weapon. The weapon in that case is still in police custody, Sosebee said. 

A motive in the shooting remains under investigation. Officials acknowledged that McRae had a history of mental health issues, and that is part of the probe.

"It appears from the content of the note that he felt he was slighted in some way by people or businesses. Did mental health issues amplify that, or was it a component of that? We're not sure at this point," Rozman said. "That’s the question on all of our minds, and we’re doing our best to determine that as best as possible."

MSU classes are suspended through Sunday. 

Berkey Hall, where the shooting started, will remain closed for the remainder of the semester. The status of Union Hall, the shooter's next stop, is still being evaluated, said the university's interim president, Teresa K. Woodruff.