EAST LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Three people were killed and five were injured in a shooting at Michigan State University Monday, kicking off an hourslong search for the shooter that ended when he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police say.
The first report of a shooting came in at 8:18 p.m. at Berkey Hall, an academic building on the East Lansing campus, MSU Police and Public Safety said. Police said the officers were on scene within minutes and found several victims.
“While officers were in Berkey Hall, the suspect moved over to the Union and when the incident took place there, officers quickly redeployed to the Union. And that’s when the suspect left out the north door of the Union, which is the point that he was last seen,” MSU Police Interim Deputy Chief Chris Rozman said.
Three people were killed, two at Berkey Hall and one at the MSU Union, police say. Police did not identify the victims in the hours after the shooting and could not say if they are students.
Five patients were taken to Sparrow Hospital in downtown Lansing. Sparrow Health spokesman John Foren said all were listed in critical condition, though there was “some variance” in how they were doing. He said “several” underwent surgery.
There were no other locations where shootings took place, police say.
It was around midnight that the suspect shot and killed himself after he was confronted by officers on the north side of Lansing.
“This truly has been a nightmare that we are living tonight,” Rozman said. “But we have remained laser-focused on the safety of our campus, our students and the surrounding community. We are relieved to no longer have an active threat on campus while we realize that there is so much healing that will need to take place after this.”
Police say the suspect was a 43-year-old man with no connection to the campus. The interim deputy chief said police do not have information about a possible motive.
“We have absolutely no information right now on what the motive is,” Rozman said, adding, “and I can’t begin to imagine what that motive might be.”
He said police would try to answer that question.
Police have not said what type of gun was used.
The hunt for the suspect ended in the area of Lake Lansing Road at Larch Street, which is nearly 4 miles from campus. Rozman did not have information about how officers found the suspect, but said he was “contacted by law enforcement off campus.”
“With the overwhelming response of law enforcement law officers that we had from across the state, we began to deploy those resources out in different perimeter zones and different waves and all of those officers were looking for this particular suspect that we identified very quickly with a photograph that was shared with all of the officers in the field,” Rozman said. “There were hundreds of officers that were looking for this individual. What led the officers to come across him and contact him … that will be part of our investigation, but I’m not able to share that at this point.”
After the suspect’s death, there was a large police presence including the state police bomb squad and K-9 units around a home in the area of Creston Avenue and E. Howe Avenue in Lansing. Police did not immediately confirm if the scene was connected to the shooting, but did say other locations were being investigated.
Another news conference was expected Tuesday morning.
“Our investigators will continue to work tonight and around the clock to process the crime scenes and start to put the pieces together to try to understand what happened here tonight,” Rozman said.
“We encourage any students or witnesses to come forward to help us piece the sequence of events together,” Rozman said.
Marlon Lynch, vice president for public safety and chief of police at MSU, expected more information to become available in the next few days.
“This is a process. It will take some time,” he said. “I know we all want answers. And as soon as we have them, we will share them.”
Lynch said the university has more than 5,300 acres and 400 buildings, some of which are open to the public, including the two where shots were fired. Berkey Hall is an academic building. The shooting happened while activities were ongoing and before it was locked up for the night. The Union was also in its regular operating hours at the time of the shooting.
MSU CLOSED FOR 48 HOURS
Students and others on campus were instructed to shelter in place for about four hours after the shooting until the suspect’s death.
“I want to commend the students and our community on how they reacted when we sent out our emergency messaging instructing people to shelter in place, to ‘run, hide, fight.’ Our community listened and that’s why a lot of folks in those buildings were able to escape is because of following our instructions,” Rozman said.
After people were given the all-clear to move around or leave campus, a city bus was sent around the dorms to pick students up and bring them to the MSU Pavilion, where family members could pick them up, Michigan State Police said.
The FBI said it will provide victim services to all students who have been impacted. MSU offers free 24/7 counseling by calling 517.355.8270. There will also be counselors at the Hannah Community Center starting at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
All classes, athletics and other campus activities through Wednesday have been canceled.
“Please DO NOT come to campus tomorrow,” MSU police said.
Several area schools, including Lansing School District and East Lansing Public Schools, will also be closed Tuesday.
‘OUR SPARTAN HEARTS ARE HEAVY’
“Our Spartan hearts are heavy. This is a day of shock and heartbreak here across our campus and our region,” MSU Interim President Teresa Woodruff said around 1:30 a.m. in the final briefing of the night. “It’s something that’s quite unimaginable. … We want to wrap our wrap arms around every family that is touched by this tragedy and give them the peace that passes understanding in moments like this. Our campus grieves. We will all grieve. And we will change over time. We cannot allow this to continue to happen again.”
She said the MSU community is “knit together by each other. And we will hold each other up.”
Woodruff said she’s proud of how quickly the students, staff and faculty acted and successfully sheltered in place.
“My prayers went to heaven,” she said.
Lynch, the MSU police chief, thanked the police agencies that rushed to campus in the wake of the shooting.
“We can’t describe and appreciate the response that we had from our partners,” Marlon Lynch, vice president for Public Safety and chief of police at MSU, said, praising that teamwork for an “expedient and efficient response.” “They’re still there, still clearing buildings. It’s a very methodical process. We had the numbers to do it. And it’s only because the relationships that we have ere locally and the ability to train and partner constantly and the communication is always there. It’s a situation where when one department receives the call, everybody does.”
Rozman said hundreds of officers from local, county, state and federal agencies responded to the campus.
“The initial response to the initial shooting was overwhelming. Every one of our law enforcement partners in Ingham County responded to the scene and additional counties in this area showed up, along with our federal partners,” Rozman said.
He said the planning and active shooter training area police have done allowed them to keep the response organized.
STUDENT: ‘MOST SCARY THING IN MY LIFE’
A Rockford High School graduate who now goes to MSU, Ethan Macka, said he was hanging out with his friends when someone got a text saying there had been a shooting.
“We were all very scared,” he said.
He said he and his friends started listening to the police scanner to stay updated. They got two emails from the university about what was happening. They were told to “run, hide and then fight” and to shelter in place, Macka said.
He said they were all texting friends and family to let them know they are safe.
A senior at the school said she sheltered in place for three and a half hours with several others in a crawl space under a campus building. Many were terrified and crying, she said.
One student, William, said he saw several people get hurt as they ran from the dining hall. He said police that came through were saying, “Where is he?” and “Run.”
Another student told News 8 he saw was eating dinner when people started barricading doors.
“It was all hectic and I was really worried. I was calling my family,” he said. “This is not what I had in mind when I went out from my home country.”
The student, who is from Saudi Arabia, said he was “really freaking out.”
Another international student said he has “no one here.”
“I feel scared,” he told News 8.
LIVE SCENE FROM MSU: pic.twitter.com/46PiNQQIRh— Amanda Porter News (@ItsAmandaPorter) February 14, 2023
One student who was also at the dining hall said five relatives texted her to ask if she was OK.
“We kind of just got scared. We tried to leave to go to my dorm first but then they had already locked the doors,” she said.
She said they were told to move from the windows.
The student said they had to leave the dining hall and run across a field.
“It was horrible. It was like the most scary thing in my life, my heart was pounding, I was making sure my friend Ben was with me at all times,” she said. “So we ran over to the parking garage. Everybody was on edge, it was crazy.”
“I want to go home,” one student told News 8.
WHITMER, NESSEL RESPOND
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel released a statement saying she is mourning the loss of those who died. She said her sons who go MSU are safe.
“As a parent, there is no greater fear than having your child tell you there is an active shooter at their school. I experienced this terror along with thousands of other MSU families last night. While my Spartan sons are safe, I am mourning the devastating loss and senseless violence,” Nessel said in the statement. “The events at Michigan State University are a tragedy for the entire state of Michigan. My thoughts are with the victims, their families, friends, and loved ones.
“I want to thank everyone in law enforcement who worked to secure the campus and protect the community. I am hopeful that the investigation reveals how we can better protect our children, our neighbors, and all those who call Michigan home.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also said she would mourn those who have died. She said the Spartan community and people across Michigan are “devastated.”
“MSU’s campus is a special place for so many, and it is now the site of another senseless act of gun violence. Parents across Michigan were on pins and needles calling their kids to check in on them and tell them they love them,” Whitmer said in a statement. “It doesn’t have to be this way. 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.”
She called shooting an “uniquely American problem.”
“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,” she said. “Spartans will cry and hold each other a little closer. We will mourn the loss of beautiful souls and pray for those fighting for their lives in the hospital.”
Whitmer also thanked the first responders for their swift response.
EXPERT: SEARCHING FOR SUSPECT A ‘MONUMENTAL TASK’
As police looked for the suspect, News 8 spoke with Jason Russell, a former Secret Service officer and now founder of a security consultant firm.
“No community is immune to these types of violent acts and we’re experiencing it close to home again,” Russell said.
Russell said his daughter lives near campus. She sheltered in place and was OK.
“As a parent, obviously it’s a very, very scary to situation to be in but I’m very happy that she’s safe,” he said.
He said the search for the suspect was a “monumental task” because MSU campus is so big — more than 8 square miles. He said as time elapsed from the shooting, the radius officers had to consider in their search grew, spreading off campus and into the surrounding neighborhoods. On top of that, calls were coming in with conflicting information.
“I think they’ve done a great job of really communicating when things are being cleared and as they’re moving to different locations,” Russell said as the search was ongoing. “What’s really causing the confusion right now is additional calls reporting additional shots fired that appear to be people hearing something and thinking that they’re hearing additional shots and they’re not locating additional shots. But what that’s doing is pulling them away from their ability to continue to search areas and hopefully track down the suspect.”
Even as they responded to calls that turned out to be nothing, officers methodically cleared buildings. Russell, who said his first job in law enforcement was as a Lansing police officer, described that as a systematic process, with officers looking for a suspect who may be hiding and evacuating students, including any that may be injured.
“I know the training that the officers go through is extremely thorough and they’ll be taking their time to do this and it’s going to take a long time,” Russell said.
MSU has around 50,000 students this year. A little less than 40,000 of those are undergraduates.