All eight victims of the shooting at Michigan State University on Monday night are students, authorities revealed Tuesday. Three were killed and five others remain in critical condition.
The gunman has been identified as a 43-year-old man. Police confirmed he died by suicide after four hours of frightening shelter-in-place orders on campus.
“We’re all broken by an all too familiar feeling,” Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said Tuesday morning. “Another place that is supposed to be about community and togetherness shattered by bullets and blood shed.”
The Gun Violence Archive, which defines mass shootings as involving four or more injuries or deaths not including the shooter, records the violence at MSU as the 67th such incident in the U.S. since the start of this year.
“This is a uniquely American problem,” Whitmer tweeted earlier Tuesday morning. “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.”
The second mass shooting for some students
For some on campus, this was their second brush with a mass shooting. Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin said there were survivors of the November 2021 mass shooting at Oxford High School, in which four students were killed and six students and a teacher were injured, who also went to MSU. “I am filled with rage that we have to have another press conference to talk about our children being killed in their schools,” she said. Slotkin described it as “haunting” to see an MSU student wearing one of the “Oxford Strong” sweatshirts that were handed out to the surviving high school students after last year’s shooting.
The Washington Post reported that one Oxford graduate at MSU whispered to her father on the phone while hiding in fear on Monday night, “I can’t believe this is happening again.”
Another MSU student took to TikTok to recount surviving the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting 10 years ago. She said she has since suffered PTSD fractures in her lower back. “The fact that this is the second mass shooting that I have now lived through is incomprehensible.”
Tuesday marks five years since 17 people were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which galvanized a mass movement in the U.S. demanding greater gun control legislation—a call which has largely been unrealized.
Police said they first received multiple calls about a shooting in Berkey Hall on campus around 8:18 p.m. on Monday evening. “We were quickly on scene, within minutes,” said Chris Rozman, interim deputy chief of Michigan State University Police, at one of several news briefings on the status of the situation. “There was another report of a shooting immediately following the first incident,” this time at the MSU Union building some 400 meters away, Rozman told reporters.
Rozman said several victims were tended to at both scenes. He later clarified that two people were killed in Berkey Hall, while a third was killed in the MSU Union building. Five people were transported to Sparrow Hospital, some with “life-threatening injuries,” according to Rozman.
In an alert sent out around 8:30 p.m., police notified the campus community that shots were fired. Another alert issued about an hour and a half later said the incident was “actively ongoing.” Authorities advised students to “Run, Hide and Fight”—an active-shooter protocol that has been promoted by the FBI.
Police had said there only appeared to be one suspect, and just after 11 p.m. released an image of him obtained by surveillance footage. MSU authorities found the suspect dead apparently by self-inflicted gunshot at 11:35 p.m.
Even though police say there is no longer an active threat, the campus will remain closed to normal activity, such as classes and sports, for two days “so we can think and grieve and come together,” Michigan State University Interim President Teresa Woodruff said in another briefing early Tuesday. She also noted that counseling services will be made available to the community.
What do we know about the gunman?
The gunman was identified as Anthony Dwayne McRae, a 43-year-old male. Police have said he was not affiliated with the university and his motive is still under investigation. When asked at a briefing if there were any warning signs, Rozman responded: “We were not aware of any threat before this.”
On Tuesday, the police department in Ewing Township, N.J., released a statement saying that when Michigan police found McRae, he had a note in his pocket “that indicated a threat to two Ewing Public Schools.” The schools were closed on Feb. 14 “out of an abundance of caution” but reopened on Feb. 15, after it was determined there was no remaining threat. The Ewing police statement said McRae used to reside there and “had a history of mental health issues.”
McRae previously pleaded guilty for carrying a handgun without a license after a 2019 arrest, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Who are the victims?
Five victims who remain hospitalized in critical condition have not been named, but in a statement released Tuesday, police identified the three deceased victims as Grosse Point natives Arielle Anderson and Brian Fraser, and Alexandria Verner from Clawson, another suburb of Detroit. Anderson and Verner were juniors, while Fraser was a sophomore.
Tributes on social media have already begun to stream in.
Anderson’s family said in a statement: “As an angel here on Earth, Arielle was sweet and loving with an infectious smile that was very contagious. We are absolutely devastated by this heinous act of violence upon her and many other innocent victims.”
Fraser was also described as having an infectious smile. His high school swimming program posted on Facebook that he had a “sense of humor that could light up the pool deck and bring laughter to the entire team.”
“Al was always the best of us,” Tristan Perry, a friend of Verner’s, posted. “You always made our days better. I can’t understand how you could be taken from us.”
“It’s so hard to imagine [you’re] not out there making the world a better place right now.”
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