- Three students were killed and five others wounded, some with life-threatening injuries, in a shooting on Michigan State University’s campus Monday night.
- The gunman fled the shooting scenes — an academic building and the student union — prompting a manhunt. He later died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
- Police identified the suspect as Anthony Dwayne McRae, a 43-year-old man who was not affiliated with MSU. Police do not yet know a motive.
- "This truly has been a nightmare we are living tonight," said Chris Rozman of the MSU Police.
LANSING, Mich. — Yet another American community was grappling Tuesday with the aftermath of yet another deadly mass shooting, this time on the campus of Michigan State University.
Police searched for a motive, survivors recounted their brush with death, politicians denounced the mayhem and expressed condolences, a heartbroken doctor broke down in tears as he tallied up the latest losses — three dead, five wounded, all students targeted by yet another suspect with an unknown grudge and a gun.
The post-chaos choreography following the latest mass shooting was all too familiar to Michigan mom Andrea Ferguson, whose daughter survived the 2021 massacre at Oxford High School and now attends Michigan State.
“It was like reliving Oxford all over again,” Ferguson said, referring to the high school massacre that left four students dead. “The phone call, the word shooting, shooter, it was surreal.”
This was also the second deadly mass shooting for 21-year-old Michigan State University senior Jackie Matthews. She was 11 years when a gunman armed with an assault rifle gunned down 20 first graders and six staffers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in her hometown of Newtown, Connecticut.
“Something so traumatic is devastating no matter what age you are,” said Matthews, who remembers being on lockdown at Reed Intermediate School, the neighboring school to Sandy Hook.
Meanwhile, an iconic fixture on the MSU campus known as The Rock was painted black Tuesday in response to the mass shooting. And written in red on the rock’s face were the words “How many more?” followed by “Stay Safe MSU.”
“This truly has been a nightmare that we are living tonight,” said Chris Rozman, interim deputy chief of the Michigan State University Police.
All three victims were from the Detroit suburbs, university police said. Alexandria Verner was a junior from Clawson, Brian Fraser was a sophomore from Grosse Pointe, and junior Arielle Anderson was also from Grosse Pointe.
Monday’s massacre was the second school shooting of the year, according to NBC News’ school shooting tracker. And it happened on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the Parkland school shooting in Florida that left 14 students and three staff members dead.
Motive remains unknown
The suspect was identified as Anthony Dwayne McRae, 43, who was not affiliated with MSU and who killed himself as police were closing-in on him, Rozman said.
Police have not yet come up with a motive. But the suspected gunman's father, Michael McRae, told NBC News that his son turned “evil and mean” and became a recluse following his mother’s death two years ago.
Neighbor Megan Bender said the suspect lived with his dad, used a bicycle to get around, and drew complaints for firing his gun into the backyard.
“He was firing a firearm out of the back door of the house into the yard,” she said. “We’re right in the city. You shouldn’t be firing a firearm in the middle of the city.”
The five wounded, currently being treated at E.W. Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, are in critical condition, said Dr. Denny Martin, the hospital's chief medical officer.
“Four of those individuals did require surgical intervention," he said. "One did not and was taken to the critical care unit after being triaged."
Martin was overcome with emotion as he praised the hospital staffers who responded to the emergency.
“We received a lot of texts that were just, ‘I’m on my way,’ people showing up where they needed be,” he said. “It was a sad but very proud night for all of us here.”
The first reports of gunfire came at 8:18 p.m. Monday at Berkey Hall, on the northern edge of the 50,000-student campus.
Immediately, urgent alerts were sent out and, for hours, frightened students and faculty on the campus sheltered in place while the deadly drama played out.
Shortly after police responded to that academic building, they were called to MSU Union, where another shooting was reported.
Of the three students who were killed, two were found at Berkey Hall and one was at the Union building, Rozman said.
Both buildings had been unlocked and "open to the public" when the gunman burst inside, he said.
Hundreds of law enforcement officers flooded the campus in pursuit of the shooter while students trapped inside buildings reported on social media that they were hiding.
It wasn't until 11 p.m. Monday that McRae's image was captured by campus security cameras, police said.
But about 17 minutes after that image was disseminated, police acting on a tip from a caller were able to track McRae down.
'Everyone was screaming'
Three freshmen were in a dining hall when a relative called one of them to say there was a shooter, the women told NBC affiliate WILX of Lansing.
They were told to stay calm but eventually blocked the doors, they said. A large group then left in a rush.
“Everyone was screaming everyone’s names," one of the students told the station. "It was really loud, really hectic."
Bernice Rizera, who lives 60 miles away in Grand Rapids and whose daughter attends Michigan State, jumped in her car and drove to the campus after she heard about the shooting.
“I was just like in a panic," she told WILX. "I was driving 100 mph here. I just want to get my baby home. That’s it, I just want my baby home.”
Parent describes daughter experiencing second Michigan school shootingFeb. 14, 202305:17
In the aftermath of the shooting, Michigan State canceled all campus activities, including athletics and classes, for two days. Students and staff members were urged to stay away from campus Tuesday.
Counseling services were expected to be made available to students starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the East Lansing Hannah Community Center, the university said.
“Tonight, our Spartan hearts hang heavy,” interim University President Teresa K. Woodruff said early Tuesday.
The FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Michigan State Police said they were sending personnel to MSU to help campus investigators.
“I couldn’t believe this was happening on my college campus,” said Drew Russ, an 18-year-old freshman from Los Angeles, who said he was watching “Star Wars” with friends in his dorm when a deluge of text messages arrived.
He and everyone on his floor in the dorm, which is about a mile from Berkey Hall, stayed put, he told MSNBC on Monday night.
Federal law enforcement supporting response
President Joe Biden spoke with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday evening, a White House official told NBC News.
"Jill and I are praying for the three students killed and the five students fighting for their lives after last night’s shooting at Michigan State University," Biden said later in a statement. "Our hearts are with these young victims and their families, the broader East Lansing and Lansing communities, and all Americans across the country grieving as the result of gun violence."
Whitmer said her state was devastated by the violence.
“MSU’s campus is a special place for so many, and it is now the site of another senseless act of gun violence," she said in a statement Tuesday. "Parents across Michigan were on pins and needles calling their kids to check in on them and tell them they love them.
"It doesn’t have to be this way," the governor said. "This is a uniquely American problem. Too many of us scan rooms for exits when we enter them. We plan who that last text or call would go to. We should not, we cannot, accept living like this."