KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The six victims who died in a random shooting spree in Kalamazoo were all spending a Saturday evening doing what they love when they were gunned down.
Among the victims whose lives were taken, 60-year-old Mary Jo Nye of Battle Creek, her 62-year-old sister-in-law Mary Lou Nye of Baroda, 68-year-old Barbara Hawthorne and 74-year-old Dorothy “Judy” Brown, both of Battle Creek.
All four women, along with a 14-year-old girl, had dinner at Cracker Barrel, went to see a show at Miller Auditorium and had returned to the restaurant to pick up a car. They were shot while sitting in their vehicles.
“When I drove past where the Cracker Barrel was on my way here, I wept for 20 minutes uncontrollably,” said Bart Nye, Mary Lou Nye’s son. “Just because ‘Look, there’s her car, there’s Aunt Jo’s car. They’re still there. It’s tough.”
The other two victims who were fatally shot were father and son. Rich Smith and his 17-year-old son, Tyler Smith, were looking at cars in the lot of Seelye Ford Kia in Kalamazoo when they were shot and killed.
Tyler was a senior at Mattawan High School where the superintendent said he always had a smile on his face and was well liked by everyone.
Tyler spent half of the school day at the tech center in the marketing program and half the day at the high school.
Laurie Smith, Tyler’s mother and wife of Rich Smith, wrote on Facebook thanking everyone for their support:
“Laying in bed trying to comprehend what has happened in the past 24+ hrs…wishing its all a bad dream and they’ll be here when i wake up. I want to thank everyone for the unbelievable outpouring of care, concern, love, prayer , meals, help….and everything that you’ve shown me and my family. I am numb….I don’t know what to say or do and so i wanted to make sure everyone knows how much we appreciate everything…because I am often not thinking clearly and may not say it when i should. Thank you all for your support as Em and I and our whole family try to figure out how to go on after losing our son, grandson, brother, cousin, nephew, friend, husband, soulmate, uncle, daddy, son-in-law, love of my life…”
Superintendent of Mattawan Consolidated School, Dr. Robin Buchler, said while she didn’t know Tyler Smith personally, her son had a class with him.
“[My son has] known Tyler for years – they’re both seniors this year – and he just said he’s devastated,” Buchler told 24 Hour News 8. “He said I just can’t believe that… [Smith is] such a great kid and everybody likes him and he’s always has a smile on his face. I think [my son] dreads walking into class tomorrow and not seeing Tyler in that seat where he’s been all year, all semester.”
Buchler said she is touched by the outpouring of support they have received from other school districts during this tragedy. She told 24 Hour News 8 that students from area districts are wearing Mattawan’s colors to show their support.
Buchler met with crisis counselors at Mattawan High School Sunday afternoon to lay out plans to ensure that students and staff have the support they need in the coming days and weeks to work through the tragedy.
Buchler was particularly concerned about finding ways to help the students feel safe and said students had been chatting on social media on Sunday, with some of them expressing not just shock, but also fear.
“There’s an underlying feeling of fear,” Buchler said.
“There’s kids who don’t want to go outside and are just really fearful because it was just so unexpected. There was no reason or logic to it. “(The kids are saying) ‘this is our town,’ and a couple of the students said ‘I’ve been there. I’ve walked there. That could’ve been me.’ So our challenge with the crisis team is helping students still believe in the world and that they can be safe in this town.”