Michigan State shooting: Gunman had no known ties to school

Here’s everything we know about the killings so far.

Police in front of a building at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich.
Police respond to a shooting on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., on Monday. (Nick King/Lansing State Journal/USA Today via Reuters)

A gunman killed three students and wounded five others in a shooting on the campus of Michigan State University on Monday night, setting off an hours-long manhunt that ended with him dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Authorities identified the suspected gunman as 43-year-old Anthony McRae, who was not a student or employee and had no affiliation with the university.

Here’s everything we know about the shooting, investigation and aftermath.

What happened?

Michigan State University students hugging each other.
Michigan State University students following the shooting. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

The shooting began shortly after 8 p.m. ET on Monday at Berkey Hall, an academic building, and later moved to the nearby student union, a popular gathering spot for Michigan State’s 50,000 students to eat or study.

Frantic students poured out of the buildings and were soon ordered to shelter in place as hundreds of police officers scoured the school’s sprawling campus in East Lansing, Mich., for the suspect, who was seen in surveillance footage wearing a baseball cap and carrying what appeared to be a handgun. Authorities said he fled the scene on foot.

The injured were taken to E.W. Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, where they were listed in critical condition.

“This truly has been a nightmare we’re living tonight,” Chris Rozman, interim deputy chief of the campus police department, said at a news conference early Tuesday.

All classes, sports and other activities were canceled for 48 hours to allow students to “think and grieve and come together,” MSU interim president Teresa Woodruff said.

Gunman identified

A combination of images from surveillance video provided by Michigan State University show the suspected gunman entering a building.
Images from surveillance video provided by Michigan State University show the suspected gunman. (Courtesy of MSU Police and Public Safety via AP)

Authorities identified the suspected gunman as McRae, who died in Lansing while being confronted by police.

Michael McRae, Anthony’s father, told NBC News that his son had a difficult time handling the loss of his mother, Linda, who died of a stroke in 2020.

After her death, the younger McRae quit his job at a warehouse and stayed in his room all day, his father said.

“He was a mama’s boy. He loved his mom. They were tight. His mom was like his sister,” Michael McRae said. “He was grieving his mom. He wouldn’t let it go. He got bitter, bitter and bitter. … He just started getting evil and mean. He didn’t care about anything anymore.”

But authorities said the shooter’s motive is unknown. “We have no idea why he came to campus to do this tonight,” Rozman said.

According to the Associated Press, the deceased gunman was found with a note in his pocket indicating another threat to two schools in Ewing Township, N.J., where he had ties. Ewing Public Schools were closed for the day, but it was later determined there was no threat to the district.

According to the Detroit Free Press, McRae was arrested in 2019 on a gun-related charge in Lansing. Court records indicated that a Lansing police officer approached McRae, asked if he worked at a nearby building and then asked whether he was armed. McRae said he was but did not have a permit, and the officer detained him. He later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was placed on probation.

More gun violence

Dr. Denny Martin of E.W. Sparrow Hospital speaks at a news conference on Tuesday as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer looks on.
Dr. Denny Martin of E.W. Sparrow Hospital speaks at a news conference on Tuesday as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer looks on. (Carlos Osorio/AP)

The massacre at Michigan State was the latest in what has already been another deadly new year of gun violence in the United States. Dozens of people have died in mass shootings so far in 2023, including two in California in less than 48 hours, leaving at least 18 people dead and 10 others wounded.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there were more than 600 mass shootings in which at least four people were killed or wounded in the U.S. in 2022.

“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,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. “They should not be the sites of bloodshed.

“This is a uniquely American problem,” she added. “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.”

A grim connection

A police vehicle with its emergency lights on is parked in front of a building on MSU’s campus.
Police at the scene of the shooting on MSU’s campus Monday night. (Al Goldis/AP)

The shootings at Michigan State came on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and a little more than 10 years after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

A Michigan State student who said she had survived the Sandy Hook shootings posted a video to TikTok early Tuesday.

“The reason I'm making this video right now is because it is almost 1 a.m. and I am currently directly across the street from where the shootings at Michigan State occurred," the student, whose TikTok handle is @jmatttttt, said. "I am 21 years old and this is the second mass shooting that I have now lived through.

“The fact that this is the second mass shooting that I have now lived through is incomprehensible,” she said. “My heart goes out to all the families and the friends of the victims of this Michigan State shooting. But we can no longer just provide love and prayers. It needs to be legislation. It needs to be action. It’s not OK. We can no longer allow this to happen. We can no longer be complacent.”

White House weighs in

Workers dressed in white protective gear clean up outside the scene of a deadly shooting on MSU’s campus.
Workers at MSU clean up outside the site of the shooting on Tuesday. (Carlos Osorio/AP)

President Biden released a statement on Tuesday, saying, “Jill and I are praying for the three students killed and the five students fighting for their lives after last night’s shooting at Michigan State University. Our hearts are with these young victims and their families, the broader East Lansing and Lansing communities and all Americans across the country grieving as the result of gun violence.

“Too many American communities have been devastated by gun violence,” he said. “I have taken action to combat this epidemic in America, including a historic number of executive actions and the first significant gun safety law in nearly 30 years, but we must do more.

“The fact that this shooting took place the night before this country marks five years since the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, should cause every American to exclaim ‘enough’ and demand that Congress take action,” he added. “As I said in my State of the Union address last week, Congress must do something and enact commonsense gun law reforms, including requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, closing loopholes in our background check system, requiring safe storage of guns, and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers who knowingly put weapons of war on our streets. Action is what we owe to those grieving today in Michigan and across America.”