February 14, 2008
A gunman opened fire in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University on Thursday, killing five people and himself as well as injuring at least 16 others.
Campus Police Chief Donald Grady confirmed the deaths following
a news conference. He says the gunman was not a student at the
school and police had no apparent motive.
The gunman fatally shot four women and a man in a "brief, rapid-fire assault" that sent terrified students running for cover, University President John Peters said. Four of the six total dead died at the scene Thursday, and the other two died at a hospital, he said.
Peters said witnesses in the geology class saw someone dressed in black came out from behind a screen in front of the classroom and opened fire with a shotgun.
"Police are confirming that the shooter is dead by a self-inflicted gunshot," the school said on its Web site.
The university issued a statement on its Web site about an hour after the 3 p.m. shooting that "the immediate danger has passed. The gunman is no longer a threat."
George Gaynor, a senior geography student, who was in Cole Hall when the shooting happened, told the student newspaper the Northern
Star that the shooter was "a skinny white guy with a stocking cap on."
He described the scene immediately following the incident as terrifying and chaotic.
"Some girl got hit in the eye, a guy got hit in the leg," Gaynor said outside just minutes after the shooting occurred. "It was like five minutes before class ended too."
Witnesses said the young man carried a shotgun and a pistol. Student Edward Robinson told WLS that the gunman appeared to target students in one part of the lecture hall.
"It was almost like he knew who he wanted to shoot," Robinson said. "He knew who and where he wanted to be firing at."
All classes were canceled Thursday night and the 25,000-student campus was closed on Friday. Students were urged to call their parents "as soon as possible" and were offered counseling at any residence hall, according to the school Web site.
Dominique Broxton, 22, a student from Oak Park, told the Chicago Tribune she could see two wounded students from her dorm room.
"The ambulance took away two students on the ground right outside my dorm," she said. "I don't know them. They looked bloody."
She said she saw a lot of confusion. "Students were running. People really didn't know what was going on. There is an intercom system inside the dorm. Someone came on and stated that someone had been caught. They said they caught the shooter and that we should remain calm and stay in our rooms. I am in my room now."
The school was closed for one day during final exam week in December after campus police found threats, including racial slurs and references to shootings earlier in the year at Virginia Tech, scrawled on a bathroom wall in a dormitory. Police determined after an investigation that there was no imminent threat and the campus was reopened.
The shooting was the fourth at a U.S. school within a week.
On Feb. 8, a woman shot two fellow students to death before committing suicide at Louisiana Technical College in Baton Rouge. In Memphis, Tenn., a 17-year-old is accused of shooting and critically wounding a fellow student Monday during a high school gym class, and the 15-year-old victim of a shooting at an Oxnard, Calif., junior high school has been declared brain dead.