GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Grand Rapids Police Chief Kevin Belk said he doesn't know what prompted Rodrick Dantzler to fatally shoot seven people, including two ex-girlfriends and his 12-year-old daughter, before taking his own life.
Belk and Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell discussed the case during a news conference on Friday. Police do not have an exact timeframe when the shootings occurred, but believe it was in the early afternoon on Thursday.
Officers found three bodies in a home on Plainfield Avenue. An hour later, they discovered the other four across town in a house on Brynell Court.
"I don't think there's any question in my mind that this was premeditated. He went out hunting these people down, it was very much a purposeful act," Belk said. "We don't know what triggered it. Why yesterday (Thursday) became a day that he went out and sought his revenge, for whatever reason. We just don't have the answers at this point. He's a very troubled individual involved in some horrendous activity."
"The events of yesterday have shaken our community to its roots, and they test our will under fire," said Heartwell. "What happened in the streets and in the neighborhoods of Grand Rapids is so uncharacteristic that it boggles the mind to even imagine that it can happen here."
The victims have been identified as (with relationship to Dantzler) --
- 29-year-old Jennifer MarieHeeren, an ex-girlfriend
- 12-year-old Kamrie Deann Heeren-Dantzler, his daughter
- 52-year-old Rebecca Lynn Heeren, Jennifer's mother
- 51-year-old Thomas Heeren, Jennifer's father
- 23-year-old Kimberlee Ann Emkens, a woman he had previously dated
- 27-year-old Amanda Renee Emkens, Kimberlee's sister
- 10-year-old Marissa Lynn Emkens, daughter of Amanda
"We do know that he (Dantzler) was using some cocaine and alcohol after the homicides had occurred. But whether he had used them prior to that we don't know," Belk said.
After the homicides, police received a 911 call around 3 p.m. about a separate shooting near Grandville Avenue and Martha Street SW. Robert Poore was shot in the nose following a traffic conflict with a man believed to be Dantzler who was driving his tan Lincoln Town Car. Police warned the public to be on the lookout for this car and Dantzler who they said was armed and dangerous.
Dantzler contacted an acquaintance and said he had gotten into some issues and needed a ride, Belk said. Dantzler abandoned the Town Car near Godfrey Avenue and Chestnut Street SW and was picked up in a white GMC Suburban. Sometime the acquaintance got out of the vehicle and Dantzler was alone in the SUV.
Then around 7 p.m., police received a 911 call from a woman who identified herself as a long-time friend of Dantzler. She said she saw Dantzler following her into the downtown area near Division Avenue and Fulton Street. Dantzler pulled up next to her and fired one gunshot, Chief Belk said. An officer who responded to the area rammed his cruiser into Dantzler's vehicle, Belk said, and Dantzler then fired several gunshots at the officer who returned gunfire. Bullets hit neither man.
Dantzler fled east from the scene with other officers in pursuit, which continued on city streets with Dantzler firing at officers, Belk said. Officers returned gunfire near Lydia Street and Eastern Avenue NE.
Other officers deployed stop sticks near Lyon Street and Diamond Avenue NE. The sticks punctured at least two of the tires on Dantzler's vehicle, Belk said. But Dantzler continued to drive away, onto westbound I-196, and then to northbound U.S. 131. Officers who got ahead of Dantzler's intended route shot one round each from shotguns as Dantzler passed by. Police believe Dantzler was not hit.
Dantzler continued to flee to eastbound I-96. He then crossed the median and went into the westbound lanes, driving against oncoming traffic, Belk said.
The chase was appropriate because the suspect presented an ongoing threat to the entire community, Belk said. "We only chase for the most serious and violent felonies."
Dantzler's vehicle then went off the road and into a wooded area and hit some trees and heavy vegetation. Dantzler fled on foot and officers continued to chase after him.
Dantzler forced his way into a home at 3232 Rickman Ave. NE just off the expressway, Belk said. Once inside, several gunshots were fired. Dantzler called 911 and told dispatchers he was in the house and had hostages.
Officers set up a perimeter outside the home and began to communicate with Dantzler. He agreed to release one of the hostages, who was later identified as 53-year-old Joyce Bean, the homeowner. Police were originally under the impression that there were two hostages. That second person was later identified as Bean's significant other, Steven Helderman, according to Bean's brother, Tom, who talked to 24 Hour News 8. But police later learned there was a third person in the home who had hidden in a closet. This third person has only been identified has a female friend of Joyce Bean's and a visitor to the
Helderman, who is hard of hearing, was agitating Dantzler because he was unable to hear him, Belk said. That is when the woman came out of the closet and able to communicate with Dantzler.
Negotiations with police and Dantzler continued for several hours. Dantzler then took his own life with a gunshot to the head around 11 p.m., police said.
Belk said they are very grateful for the support from other police agencies, ambulance services and firefighters that they received during the situation.
Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell made an opening statement, then turned it over to Chief Belk.
"The events of yesterday have shaken our community to its roots, and they test our will under fire," said Heartwell. "What happened in the streets and in the neighborhoods of Grand Rapids is so uncharacteristic that it boggles the mind to even imagine that it can happen here.
"We are a caring community and I call you today to care for your neighbors, to talk to each other, to reassure one another, pray for the friends and family members of the victims.
"Second I would praise our Grand Rapids Police Department. They performed their duties masterfully under the most adverse circumstances; from their relentless pursuit under fire, through the streets of Grand Rapids, to the patient, skillful negotiations that were carried out. Negotiations that saved three lives. Our police were courageous, our police showed professionalism. This community has shown its faith and support of our police department, and yesterday we saw it played out in full view through the media coverage, just what a wise investment that has been.
"Third I want to thank our citizens for their solid act of involvement, with tips, with support and encouragement and appropriate response to our police department when they were advised or instructed. Citizens of Grand Rapids -- you performed well.
"Finally I want to compliment the media on the professionalism that you all have shown throughout this event yesterday. I know that you in some cases stretched the rules of confirming sources, and you told us you were doing so, but you did to inform and protect our citizens living in the neighborhoods who were at risk. I appreciate that and thank you.
"We may have been shaken to our roots but our roots are deep. And our faith is strong. And our commitment to our home is unshakable. Today we show why we are great people."
Inside WOODTV.com -- The Rodrick Dantzler case
The Norton Shores Police Department is reporting three reports of stolen snowblowers this week.
About a dozen people were displaced.
One person was arrested after a threatening comment resulted in a school district briefly locking down its schools Friday morning.