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MSU shooting survivor: I met ‘pure evil,’ played dead and pleaded for life

MSU shooting survivor Troy Forbush speaks at a March For Our Lives rally at the Michigan Capitol (Bridge photo by Jonathan Oosting)
  • A survivor of MSU shooting speaks publicly for first time at a gun control rally
  • 'I pleaded for my life and screamed, 'Please don't shoot me.’
  • Michigan Democrats send first gun bills to governor 

May 11: MSU shooting 911 calls: McRae spotted in minutes; false tips prolonged ordeal

Editor's note: This account contains disturbing and graphic accounts of a shooting inside an MSU classroom on Feb. 13.

LANSING — Troy Forbush says he came "face-to-face with pure evil" and pleaded for his life before a gunman shot him in the chest at Michigan State University.

In the first public accounting from a survivor of the Feb. 13 mass shooting, the fourth-year student spoke at a gun reform rally at the Michigan Capitol on Thursday, saying he was in class at Berkey Hall when a gunman opened fire in a spree that would kill three students and injure five, including Forbush

Forbush initially mistook the gunfire for the sound of someone dropping a heavy textbook on the floor. When he realized it was "the piercing sound of a handgun being fired at me and my peers through the doorway entrance" in the back of the classroom, Forbush dropped from his desk and acted as if he "was already dead," he continued. 

"As (the gunman) panned the room with his handgun, I pleaded for my life and screamed, 'Please don't shoot me,'" Forbush told the crowd.

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The gunman did not listen and instead shot Forbush "clean through the lung — two entrance wounds and two exit wounds," he told a crowd of more than 100 gun control supporters Thursday.  

As he lay on the ground in a "state of shock" that will "forever haunt me," Forbush said he felt his phone underneath him and was able to call his mother at exactly 8:18 p.m, an account she shared with lawmakers earlier this month. 

"At that moment, I was only thinking about keeping my eyes open for as long as possible and fighting for my life so that I could tell the person I care for most in life that I love her," he said. "That I had been shot. And that there was a shooter."

‘This has to end’

The rally was the latest in a series of Michigan Capitol demonstrations by students, gun violence survivors and others advocating for stronger firearm laws.

Democrats who took control of the Michigan Legislature in January are finalizing a sweeping gun reform package that would create a "red flag" confiscation law, require safe storage or gun locks in homes with children and expand background checks to private rifle and shotgun sales. 

Earlier Thursday, the Michigan Senate took final votes on safe storage and universal background check bills, marking the first major gun-related legislation to head to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer since mass shootings at Oxford High School in November 2021 and Michigan State University in February 2023. 

Democrats are working on “red flag” legislation, which would allow judges to authorize the temporary seizure of guns from those deemed dangerous to themselves or others. Final votes are expected on those bills next month. 

Forbush, who is pursuing a double major in education and vocal performance, said the shooting at MSU was "the most relevant experience I will ever need as a future educator and an advocate for student safety."

The gunman, identified as Anthony McRae, 43, of Lansing, killed Alexandria Verner, 20, of Clawson and Arielle Diamond Anderson, 19, of Harper Woods in Berkey Hall before traveling to the MSU Union and killing Brian Fraser, 20, of Grosse Pointe Park.

Wounded students include Guadalupe Huapilla-Perez , John Hao, Nate Statly and one whose identity has not been made public. One of the students remains at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing.

Speaking at the rally, Forbush said he is haunted by the shooting and will never forget the "lifesavers" who helped him survive, including a classmate who took off his shirt to apply pressure to Forbush's wounds and asked him his name to keep him alert. 

"This could happen anywhere — at any time in this country," Forbush said. "This has to end."

Closing loopholes

The background check legislation heading to Whitmer’s desk would close what supporters call a “dangerous loophole” in state law, which requires background checks for pistol sales but not for long guns purchased from private sellers. 

The safe storage bills would create new criminal penalties for adult gun owners who did not properly store a gun that was used by a minor to hurt or kill someone. The legislation would also exempt firearm safety equipment like gun safes and locking devices from the state sales tax to encourage purchases. 

Supporters contend the safe storage law could have made a difference in Oxford, where Ethan Crumbley, then 15, has pleaded guilty to using a pistol his dad had bought for him days earlier to kill four classmates and injure seven other people. 

His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, were later charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter for allowing their son access to firearms and ignoring signs of troubling behavior ahead of the mass shooting.

Earlier Thursday, a Michigan Court of Appeals panel ruled the Crumbleys can stand trial on those charges, a decision that could still be appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court. 

Court records show the Crumbleys kept at least some of their guns in a safe with a combination lock of 000. Investigators found no signs of broken locks or tampering on the day of the shooting, according to the ruling.

The Thursday rally was among a handful of similar events across the country that marked the five-year anniversary of a deadly school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 

That mass shooting prompted Florida's Republican governor to sign a “red flag” gun confiscation law similar to the measure now being debated in Michigan, where GOP legislators have uniformly opposed the Democratic bills but offered some support for separate safe storage proposals that would require adults to keep guns locked in homes where children are present.  

Bridge staffers Lauren Gibbons and Isabel Lohman contributed

Editor's note: This story was updated at 1:30 p.m. March 24 to remove a quote from a participant after questions about his credibility emerged.

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