By Gauri Patel
On Feb. 13, a gunman opened fire on the campus of Michigan State University (MSU), killing three students and injuring five more, before fatally shooting himself, according to NPR.
The victims were identified as Arielle Anderson, a junior from Grosse Pointe, Michigan, Brian Fraser, a sophomore also from Grosse Pointe and Alexandria Verner, a junior from Clawson, Michigan, according to a news release from MSU Police.
“This truly has been a nightmare we’re living tonight,” said Chris Rozman, interim deputy chief of the campus police department during a press briefing featuring Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and local officials.
The first shooting was reported at 8:18 p.m. in Berkey Hall, an academic building home to the College of Social Science. Two students were found dead at the scene, according to NPR. Another shooting was reported soon after at the MSU Union, a central gathering place for students to eat or study located next to Berkey Hall, where one student was found dead.
The five wounded students are currently being treated at E.W. Sparrow Hospital in Lansing. They remain in critical condition, according to Dr. Denny Martin, the hospital's chief medical officer, during the press briefing.
The suspect, who has no known ties to the university, was identified as a 43-year-old man named Anthony Dwayne McRae. He had previously faced a felony weapons charge in 2019 for carrying a loaded firearm without a permit but ultimately was not convicted. McRae completed a probation sentence for a gun charge that could have imprisoned him for up to five years. However, he took a plea deal and did not spend time in prison. Had he been convicted, he would not have been able to legally own a gun, according to The Washington Post. His motive for the shooting has not been confirmed.
After the shooting was first reported, an hours-long manhunt was set off involving hundreds of law enforcement officials that led the university to send mass texts and emails to order all students on campus to shelter in place until McRae was caught, according to AP.
Claire Papoulias, a sophomore at MSU, gave CNN an account of the events that unfolded in the classroom where McRae opened fire.
“The teacher was presenting a lesson and all of sudden I heard gunshots directly behind me,” Papoulias told CNN. “That’s when the shooter opened the back classroom door and started firing at my classmates in the back, wounding them. I smelled and saw the gunpowder.”
Approximately 15 shots were fired before McRae left, leaving the door open. Someone then closed the door as students barricaded themselves inside the classroom before someone broke a window for people to escape.
Marco Díaz-Muñoz, an assistant professor at MSU, also described what happened after McRae opened fire during his lecture, saying that the gunman entered the room, fired a series of shots and left. He said that the images of the horrific aftermath are very vivid in his head and that he was unable to sleep for nearly three days after the incident.
Two of the students, Arielle Anderson and Alexandria Verner, were killed in his classroom.
Despite usually being a private person, he is determined to share his experiences to fight for stricter gun policies.
"I think if the Senate and lawmakers in this country saw what I saw, they would be shamed into action," he stated. "Or their humanity touched into action."
As Democrats hold control of both the state legislature and governorship in Michigan for the first time in 40 years, the party is pushing for increased gun restrictions such as universal background checks, according to NPR.
Had McRae been convicted for the 2019 gun charge, he would still be in prison to this day, meaning the shooting would not have taken place.
McRae was confronted by police three hours later at a location four miles off-campus before he killed himself with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. A two-page letter was found in his pocket indicating a threat to two Ewing public schools, specifically Ewing High School and Fisher Middle School, according to NPR.
After further investigation, police determined that there is no threat at Ewing schools. As a precaution, Ewing public schools were closed on Tuesday and resumed on Wednesday. On Tuesday, The College made access to all academic buildings as swipe access only which was lifted later that day.
Following the shooting, MSU announced it would close campus, including athletics, classes and all campus-related activities, for 48 hours, according to Detroit News. Classes are set to resume on Feb. 20. The university will also be offering a credit/no credit grade reporting option for all undergraduate courses for the remainder of the semester. Berkey Hall will remain closed for the spring semester.
“We will stand together as a community,” states the MSU Police news report, “and support one another during this difficult time.”