The suspect is dead in a mass shooting at Michigan State University that left three dead and several others in critical condition on Monday night. All of the victims are students. An alert was sent at 8:31 p.m. Monday, telling students to “run, hide, fight” with a report of shots fired at Berkey Hall and at the MSU Union. The gunman, 43-year-old Anthony McRae, was found off campus. He died from what police say was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. McRae’s motive is unknown, as he had no known ties with the victims or with the University.
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Suspect named in Michigan State University shooting; 2 of 3 student victims ID’d; 5 in critical condition
By Kristen Jordan Shamus & Darcie Moran; February 14, 2023
Morning dawned Tuesday on East Lansing to a rattled Michigan State University campus hours after a mass shooting left three dead and five others critically injured.
An alert was sent at 8:31 p.m. Monday, telling students to “run, hide, fight” with a report of shots fired at Berkey Hall and at the MSU Union.
Two people were killed at Berkey Hall, said university Interim Deputy Police Chief Chris Rozman. The gunman then moved to the MSU Union, where another was killed.
Students were told to shelter in place as authorities searched for the gunman. The 43-year-old suspect was Anthony McRae, Rozman said at a news conference Tuesday. McRae was found off campus early Tuesday before he could be arrested; he had died from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Police ID two Michigan State students slain in campus shooting
Police on Tuesday confirmed the names of two of the victims of the shooting: Brian Fraser, a sophomore from Grosse Pointe and Alexandria Verner, a junior from Clawson.
The third victim’s name was not released in “respect to the family’s wishes,” according to a release.
Anthony McRae’s motive for coming to campus unknown
McRae was not affiliated with the university, and authorities didn’t know early Tuesday why he came to MSU.
“We have absolutely no idea what the motive was,” Rozman said.
“We would like to sincerely thank our community for their help because of our quick release of the photo, the photograph from the campus security cameras and the help from our community,” Rozman said.
Interim MSU President Teresa Woodruff said: “We are devastated at the loss of life. Our campus grieves, we will all grieve. We will change over time. We cannot allow this to continue to happen again.”
The school has moved to emergency operations for two days, she said, to allow students, staff and faculty “to think, grieve and be together” after a “day of shock and heartbreak.”
Prayer vigils planned
Though they’re rivals in sports, the University of Michigan plans to support the MSU community with a vigil set for 7 p.m. Wednesday on the Diag of the Ann Arbor campus.
Grosse Pointe Memorial Church also plans an MSU prayer vigil set for 7 p.m. Wednesday in its sanctuary, 16 Lake Shore Drive, Grosse Pointe Farms.
“Let’s come together to be reminded that we are not alone and that our prayers and connections make a difference,” the church posted on Facebook.
— David Jesse and Christina Hall
McRae had gun-related criminal history
McRae was arrested in 2019 on a gun-related charge in Lansing, according to court and Michigan Department of Corrections records.
Chris Gautz, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections, provided details about the event that led to this previous arrest: “On June 7, 2019, an officer spotted an individual near an abandoned building on East Street in Lansing around 1:30 a.m. The officer questioned McRae, who said he had just left a store.
“When asked, he admitted he had a gun on him and did not have a concealed weapons permit. He claimed he left home to walk to a store (to) buy cigarettes and feared for his safety so he took his gun.”
Court records indicate a Lansing police officer approached McRae, asked if he worked at a nearby building and then asked whether McRae was armed. McRae said he was, and the officer detained him.
The officer found a Ruger LCP .380 semi-automatic pistol in McRae’s pants pocket, according to court records. The officer also found a loaded magazine in McRae’s breast pocket, records state.
His defense attorney argued the police officer’s search was unconstitutional and the discovery of the gun should be suppressed at a trial. Prosecutors disagreed. It’s unclear whether a court ruled on the issue; it appears McRae may have pleaded guilty before the court could make a decision.
McRae’s defense attorney did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
He was charged with a violation of concealed carry law and possessing a loaded weapon in a vehicle; he pleaded guilty to the weapon-in-a-vehicle charge, while prosecutors dropped the second count, according to court records.
Department of Corrections records indicate the law McRae violated is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. Gautz said McRae never served time in prison for the offense; he was placed on probation in late 2019 and “successfully discharged” on May 14, 2021.
Court records indicate he could not legally own or posses a weapon during the time he was on probation.
Lansing Police spokesperson Jordan Gulkis declined to provide any information on McRae, saying, “his history is part of the investigation so we cannot comment at this time.”
Neighbors: McRae once fired gun on their quiet street
McRae lived with his father, Mike McRae, a retired General Motors employee, at the end of a quiet street of older homes in Lansing’s north end, neighbors said.
They reported little contact with Anthony McRae, saying they would see him riding his bike and he kept to himself, while his father was well-known, gregarious and well-liked in the neighborhood.
However, neighbors were aware of an incident a couple of years ago in which police were called after Anthony McRae fired a gun outside the family home, said neighbor Megan Bender, a hospital worker.
Anthony McRae moved into the home about two years ago, after his mother, Linda McRae, died, Bender said.
“The son, we really didn’t know too much about him,” she said of Anthony McRae. “He didn’t drive. He had a bicycle.”
Another neighbor, Nicole Murray, said she thought Anthony McRae also used public transit to get around.
Murray said she had been monitoring the police scanner traffic Monday night related to the MSU mass shooting when she heard the gunshot from a nearby Quality Dairy where police say McRae fatally shot himself.
Shortly after, large numbers of police vehicles surrounded the family home, said Murray, a retired paralegal.
“I watched them all pull up,” she said.
After a few hours, “they made forced entry in full riot gear,” Murray said.
Bender said she saw the suspected shooter’s father exit the home safely before that.
Shooter ‘definitely a loner,’ brother says
McRae’s older brother, Michael McRae, 45, said he doesn’t “have a clue” what prompted Anthony McRae’s shooting spree on campus.
“This just don’t seem real, that he would be able to do anything like this,” the older brother told the Free Press on the morning after the violence. “I am still trying to process this whole thing.”
His brother “stayed to himself” and they had grown apart over the years, he said.
Michael McRae lives in Delaware. The brothers grew up in New Jersey. But Anthony McRae and his parents moved to Michigan about 20 years ago after his father transferred by General Motors in New Jersey.
Last time the brothers spoke was their mom’s funeral two years ago in Lansing and the conversation “wasn’t good.”
Anthony McRae had no children, no spouse and no friends his older brother knew of. Michael McRae said his younger brother worked at warehouse jobs in Lansing.
“He stayed to himself,” Michael McRae said. “He kind of secluded himself.
“Definitely a loner.”
Michael McRae learned what happened from their father earlier this morning.
“I am deeply sorry for this whole thing,” McRae said.
Police said Anthony McRae shot himself to death as officers approached him on a Lansing street hours after the shooting.
A New Jersey school district drawn in
A school district in Ewing, New Jersey, closed two of its schools Tuesday after a threat to the schools was found in the pocket of alleged MSU campus shooter Anthony McRae, according to a press release from the Ewing Police Department.
The local department was notified about 6 a.m. Tuesday by the New Jersey State Police that McRae had ties to Ewing Township. McRae was contacted by police around 11:30 p.m. and died shortly after of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
“When McRae was found by police in Michigan, he had a note in his pocket that indicated a threat to two Ewing Public Schools,” Ewing police said in a press release. “Investigation revealed that McRae had a history of mental health issues. As the investigation continued, and out of an abundance of caution, the Ewing Public Schools were closed for the day. …
“After further investigation, it has been determined that the incident is isolated to Michigan, and there is no threat to Ewing Schools. Information received during our investigation indicated that McRae has not resided in the Ewing area in several years.”
MSU police confirmed Tuesday that a note was found on McRae, and its contents are part of the ongoing investigation.
—David Jesse and Dave Boucher
Students recall shock, fear
Police patrol cars could be seen blocking off a few common areas of traffic on the MSU campus Tuesday morning, including West Circle Drive near Beaumont Tower. A heavier police presence was seen at the MSU Union, where yellow caution tape surrounded the building.
Few students were seen walking through the residential areas and classroom buildings near the union, but traffic continued to flow on nearby Grand River Avenue.
Student Mo Talev said he barricaded himself with other students in a room in a nearby library after getting text messages saying “shots fired.” The group remained in the room from the initial alerts around 8:30 p.m. Monday until 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, when the shelter-in-place order was lifted.
“We were trying to figure out what was going on first. I started getting texts from friends and family, (asking): ‘Are you good?’ I said we were hiding in the library. There were many different rooms people were hiding in. It was like a fever dream, honestly. It felt surreal.”
Talev, who is from the metro Detroit area, said he now is trying to connect with friends on campus.
Austin Delola, a sophomore at Lansing Community College, was at the Buffalo Wild Wings just across from the MSU Union when the shooting began. He said before he and others in the restaurant could receive any alerts from campus authorities, a woman ran into the restaurant, crying and screaming about the shooting.
“She was in shock,” Delola said Tuesday, during his morning shift at a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts. “We ended up calming her down, asking what happened. She said he walked in through the door and just started shooting people.”
Delola said restaurant staff locked the doors, and those at the establishment remained there until the shelter-in-place order was lifted.
—Arpan Lobo, reporting from East Lansing
At a Tuesday morning news conference, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, an MSU alumna, thanked the first responders, the medical workers who are caring for the wounded and spoke about mass shootings as a “uniquely American problem.”
“We mourn the loss of beautiful souls today and pray for those who are continuing to fight for their lives,” Whitmer said. “Every Spartan student, parent and staff member should know that Michiganders and Americans everywhere are thinking of you today.
“President Biden and I spoke last night he pledged his support and the thoughts of an entire nation when we will work together to do what is necessary to help MSU community heal.
“We’re all broken by an all too familiar feeling. Another place that is supposed to be about community and togetherness shattered by bullets and bloodshed.”
Whitmer acknowledged that Tuesday is the fifth anniversary of the mass shooting that killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“Just as we’re recognizing the fifth anniversary of the deadliest high school shooting in history, we are experiencing yet another school shooting,” said Kris Brown, president of Brady: United Against Gun Violence, a nonprofit gun-control advocacy organization. “It remains wholly devastating to live in the only country in the industrial world where we regularly wake up to this horrific news.
“It is even more egregious that an entire generation must live under the constant fear of being shot, whether at school, at places of worship, in a concert, at a playground, or any number of youthful rites of passage, because too many policymakers refuse to take meaningful action to prevent it.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed via Twitter that Biden spoke to Whitmer about the shooting and that FBI and additional federal law enforcement were deployed to support local and state response efforts.
“President Biden and the First Lady are praying for the 3 killed & others injured in East Lansing,” Jean-Pierre said in the post.
—Kristen Shamus and Todd Spangler
Dr. Denny Martin, interim president and chief medical officer at Sparrow Hospital, was tearful Tuesday morning as he described the scene at the Lansing hospital where all five people wounded in the attack were taken Monday night.
The emergency department physicians and trauma surgeons at the Level 1 trauma center were ready, and waiting to care for the injured when they arrived, he said.
“Four of those individuals did require surgical intervention to treat … their injuries,” Martin said. “One individual did not.”
All were taken to the critical care unit after being triaged in the emergency department, Martin said, and all five remained in critical condition Tuesday morning.
Martin said he was proud of the Sparrow staff, many of whom showed up to work as soon as they heard there’d been a shooting.
“So many people … just came in. We received a lot of texts that were just, ‘I’m on my way,’ ” he said, “and then people showing up, (asking) ‘Where do you need me?’ It was a sad but very proud night for all of us here.”
Medical group supports efforts to prevent firearm deaths
Dr. Thomas Veverka, president of the Michigan State Medical Society, said members are “horrified” by the events that unfolded on the MSU campus Monday night.
“We as physicians work to identify mental health issues and other concerns that could lead to tragedy, and we strongly support federal and state efforts to ensure that physicians can fulfill that role in preventing firearm deaths by health screening, patient counseling on gun safety, and referral to mental health services for those with behavioral and emotional medical conditions,” Veverka said in a statement.
“We need to deploy a complete array of cultural, social, medical, legal, and educational tools and assets. We need to do it together.”
Mental health support services available
East Lansing Mayor Rob Bacon acknowledged the invisible trauma in the aftermath of a mass shooting.
“There’s going to be so much fear,” he said during a Tuesday morning news conference. “It’s not just the students. It’s the community. I’ve heard from parents and citizens who didn’t know what was going on.”
A 24-hour community mental health line is available for people who need support by calling 517-346-8200.
Woodruff said counseling and psychological services are available at the Hannah Community Center, 819 Abbot Road, East Lansing, for students who need support; employee assistance programs are available for faculty and staff.
“Our Spartan hearts are broken,” Woodruff said. “We are grieving, but as a community we’re grieving together. We struggle to comprehend. We lost families, friends, classmates, and our hearts go out to the victims and families of the senseless tragedy.
“We ask each of you to honor your feelings and to take care of yourself and each other. And together, we will come back more resilient than ever and more ready to face what is needed in this society, which is the courage of all of us to ensure that this never happens again.”
U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Lansing, whose district includes the MSU campus, was active on social media throughout the incident, saying she was in “moment-to-moment” contact with authorities about the developing situation and posting photos on Twitter of the suspected shooter.
About 1:45 a.m., as the active incident concluded, she posted a series of statements on Twitter, beginning: “It’s hard to describe the agony we’re feeling in East Lansing tonight. Our hearts are breaking for the families of the students who were killed, for those who have been injured, and for the entire Spartan community.”
Slotkin, whose district also includes Oxford, where a Nov. 30, 2021 mass shooting at Oxford High School killed four and injured seven more, said at a Tuesday morning news conference: “I cannot believe that I’m here again doing this 15 months later. And I am filled with rage that we have to have another press conference to talk about our children being killed in their schools.
“We have children in Michigan who are living through their second school shooting in under a year and a half. If this is not a wake up call to do something, I don’t know what is.”
—Todd Spangler and Kristen Shamus
The Michigan House and Senate each canceled Tuesday session following Monday night’s mass shooting at MSU. The Senate had been expected to take a contentious vote on a tax plan backed by Whitmer that would reduce taxes on retirement income, boost the Earned Income Tax Credit, send out $180 checks to each tax filer, and block a potential across-the-board cut in the state’s income tax rate.
Whitmer, an MSU alumnus, mourned the tragedy and thanked first responders. She has called for “common sense” gun reforms. “It doesn’t have to be this way,” Whitmer said. “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.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY., referenced the shooting as he opened remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate Tuesday morning, saying: “Our hearts are with … East Lansing today, the campus, the entire community. We’re learning more about this terrible shooting. What happened there, on a college campus, is devastating and it breaks the hearts of Americans everywhere.”
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who lives outside of Lansing and is a MSU grad, issued a statement Tuesday, saying: “Once again, gun violence has touched a Michigan community.
“I am grieving for my fellow Spartans today — for the lives lost, the injured, and all of the students, parents, MSU employees, and local residents who will be living with fear for a long time to come. I am grateful too for the first responders who put their own lives on the line to keep people safe.
“Spartans are strong and resilient — I know that the university and community will come together and get through this. I’m so incredibly sad and angry that they have to.”
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan, issued a statement that said, in part: “We’re grieving for those who lost loved ones in this nightmare and are praying for those who were injured. We’re thinking of the students, parents, staff, Spartan community — and all impacted by this tragedy. I’m also thankful to the law enforcement and first responders who rushed to the scene.”