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Michigan State University shooting: ‘Our Spartan hearts are broken’

Michigan State University Interim President Teresa Woodruff speaks at an early-morning news conference after a campus mass shooting that left three dead and five injured. “We cannot allow this to continue to happen,” she said. (Bridge photo by Ron French)

EAST LANSING  —Three people were killed and five wounded in a mass shooting on the campus of Michigan State University on Monday evening, as a man with no apparent connection to campus walked into two buildings and began shooting.

Police said the 43-year-old man they believe is responsible for the rampage killed himself when confronted by police about four hours after the assault started at 8:18 p.m.

The names of the victims were not released as of early Tuesday, nor was the identity of the suspect. 

Police said they had no known motive for the shooting that paralyzed the 50,000-student campus, with students, staff and faculty ordered to shelter in place throughout the evening, and frantic parents left to park near campus, beyond police barricades, desperate for news.


"Our Spartan hearts are broken," MSU Interim President Teresa Woodruff said at an early morning briefing. "It's something that's quite unimaginable, that has been imagined in other places and other times, but we just can't imagine that it's here. We're destroyed with the loss of life.. We cannot allow this to continue to happen."

The shootings started in Berkey Hall, a building on the north side of campus off Grand River Avenue that houses the university’s College of Social Science, police said.

Campus security quickly alerted students, staff and faculty, texting them to seek shelter and to “run, hide, fight.” 

Multiple people were shot at Berkey Hall, two fatally before the suspect left and entered the MSU Union located two buildings away. There, additional people were shot, including one who died.

The shooting touched off a massive manhunt as well over 100 police officers from numerous agencies scoured the sprawling campus.

More than four hours later, at 12:30 a.m., MSU interim deputy chief Chris Rozman announced that the suspected shooter had killed himself after he was “contacted by law enforcement off campus.”

“This truly has been a nightmare we are living tonight, but we have remained laser focused on the safety of campus,” Rozman told reporters. “We are relieved to no longer have an active threat while realizing there is so much healing that needs to take place.”

The five who were injured were rushed to Sparrow Hospital, where all five were in critical condition, Rozman said.

Police released a photo of the suspect taken from a security camera in the MSU union, at 11 p.m. 

Less than an hour later, police confronted the suspect several miles from campus, and the suspect shot himself. He was dead at the scene.

Rozman said the suspect apparently had no connection to the campus. “We have no idea why he came to campus tonight,” Rozman said.

MSU canceled all classes and activities for Tuesday and Wednesday, and announced counseling services would be available at Hanna Community Center.

Police did not say what kind of gun was used by the assailant.

As the chaos unfolded, parents of students filled parking spaces outside of the police perimeter around campus, sitting in their cars and hoping for word that the shooting risk was over.

Among them was Ken Rosenstangel, who sat in the parking lot of Jonna’s 2 Go party store at Michigan and Grand River avenues. 

Rosenstangel said he talked to his daughter for a moment. She sheltered with her class in the Human Ecology Building, on West Circle Drive, in a bathroom with all of her classmates and their instructor. However, her  phone was losing its charge and they cut the call short — after, she told her father she was fine.

“It’s ridiculous,” Rosenstangel said. “People pulling this stuff, and none of it makes sense.” 

MSU student Will Kung told Bridge that he was in the IM East gymnasium when someone shouted for everyone to stay in the gym and go onto the basketball court.

“I heard screaming,” he said, while rushing with other students as police escorted them from the IM building to Landon Hall. “There was some commotion. They told us to stay in place. But I didn’t hear any shots.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, an MSU graduate, expressed her concern for everyone connected to campus. “Our Spartan community and Michiganders across the state are devastated,” she said in a statement.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” she said. “Certain places are supposed to be about community, learning, or joy—elementary schools and college campuses, movie theaters and dance halls, grocery stores and workplaces. They should not be the sites of bloodshed.”

“This is a uniquely American problem. Too many of us scan rooms for exits when we enter them,” she said. “We plan who that last text or call would go to. We should not, we cannot, accept living like this.”  

Whitmer and fellow Democrats who now have control of the state House and Senate have made changing the state’s gun laws a priority. They have said they intend to focus on three issues: universal background checks, safe storage laws and “red flag” laws which would allow someone’s gun to be taken away temporarily if they are deemed dangerous to themselves or others.

State Rep. Ranjeev Puri, D-Canton Township, has said he first ran for office because of a mass shooting at his family’s place of worship. He did not elaborate.

“A society plagued with gun violence is a symptom of years of inaction,” Puri said in a Twitter message last night. “My colleagues and I are going to work tirelessly to ensure change is coming to Michigan in the coming days.

“I want to thank the first responders for their swift actions on the ground tonight and the medical professionals who are working to save lives. 

He concluded his statement with the words, “fuck your thoughts and prayers.”

— This story was reported by Ron French, Isabel Lohman, Paula Gardner, Yue Stella Yu, Jonathan Oosting and Mike Wilkinson

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