Three Michigan State University students were killed and five others were critically wounded in a shooting at the university Monday night, authorities said. The gunman was later found dead in Lansing of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.
Law enforcement officials at the university identified the shooter as Anthony Dwayne McRae, a 43-year-old man with no obvious affiliation to the school. McRae was neither a current nor former student or faculty member at Michigan State, said Chris Rozman, the university's interim deputy chief of police and public safety.
The suspect was previously sentenced to 12 months probation on a weapons charge, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections. Arrest records show he was convicted and ultimately sentenced in November 2019 for possessing a loaded firearm inside a vehicle, which is illegal in Michigan without a concealed carry license. He was discharged in May 2021.
Authorities say McRae was contacted in 2019 by police, who found a handgun "that was legally registered to him" during a subsequent search and investigation, the Ingham County Prosecutor's Office said in a statement. Because he did not have a legally-required concealed carry permit, McRae was first charged with carrying a concealed weapon, which is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, the prosecutor said.
McRae pleaded guilty to a second charge for possession of a loaded firearm inside a motor vehicle in October of that year and received his probation sentence the next month, according to the office's statement.
Officials identified two of the three victims on Tuesday. In a statement, university police said Brian Fraser, a sophomore at MSU originally from Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and Alexandria Verner, a junior from Clawson, were among the students killed. They did not share the name of the third student who was fatally shot "in respect to the families' wishes."
News of the mass shooting prompted an outpouring of support online for the victims, their families and the rest of the Michigan State community on Tuesday. Numerous colleges and universities shared messages on social media in response to the tragedy, with the University of Michigan additionally announcing plans to hold a vigil on the school's Ann Arbor campus on Wednesday night.
"We are sending our love and support to our friends, family members, and the community at @michiganstateu," the university wrote in a tweet. "Our hearts are broken and we grieve with you today."
We are sending our love and support to our friends, family members, and the community at @michiganstateu. Our hearts are broken and we grieve with you today. 💚🤍
A community vigil is planned for tomorrow (February 15) on the Diag at 7pm. #SpartanStrong pic.twitter.com/S6YqI49DYJ
— Michigan Marching & Athletic Bands (@umichband) February 14, 2023
Police have not released the injured students' identities.
Michigan State Police initially confirmed the death toll on Monday night, announcing that five people were hospitalized with injuries and noting that all were in critical condition. Four of the five students transported to Sparrow Hospital in Lansing underwent surgeries for their injuries overnight, a hospital representative said. The fifth student was immediately admitted to the medical center's critical care unit, according to the representative.
Later on Tuesday, Dr. Denny Martin, the interim president and chief marketing officer at Sparrow Hospital, said one of the students was alert and interacting with members of their care team in an update shared with CBS News. All five remained in critical condition, Martin said.
Police located McRae's body in the city of Lansing at around 11:30 p.m. Monday, Rozman said, thanking a caller whose tip led authorities to the suspect. He was found withthat "indicated a threat" to two schools in Ewing Township, New Jersey, officials said. The possible threat prompted officials to close schools on Tuesday in Ewing.
McRae's body was found roughly three hours after police received their first reports of shots fired inside Berkey Hall, an academic building on the MSU campus, at around 8:30 p.m. Rozman said officers arrived at the scene within minutes, and "encountered several students who were injured" inside that building.
"We can confirm that two of the deceased were in Berkey Hall, as well as some of the victims," he said.
While officers were there, MSU police received another round of calls reporting a second shooting inside the MSU Union building nearby, where authorities then found the third victim, according to Rozman.
"There is no longer a threat on campus," Rozman said at a previous news conference on Monday. An earlier shelter-in-place order issued by police for the East Lansing campus was lifted.
"This truly has been a nightmare we're living tonight," he said.
Two of those killed were at Berkey Hall on the campus and the third was shot at the MSU Union, Rozman said.
The suspect was located off campus in Lansing after a manhunt and died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.
"Our understanding is that the suspect was confronted by law enforcement," Rozman said.
WWJ radio in Detroit reported that the suspect lives in Lansing and "investigators, including MSP Bomb Squad" members were at his home overnight some two miles from where police confronted him.
Investigators, including MSP Bomb Squad, are now at the Lansing home of the 43-year-old Michigan State University shooting suspect... who, police say, took his own life after officers confronted him along Lake Lansing Road, about two miles from his home. pic.twitter.com/LlJjYTPynA
— Jon Hewett (@JonHewettWWJ) February 14, 2023
The suspect had no known affiliation with the school, and police have "no idea why he came to campus to do this tonight," Rozman said.
A White House official told CBS News early Tuesday that President Biden had been briefed on the shooting and spoke to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Whitmer referenced her conversation with Mr. Biden in remarks at Tuesday morning's news conference.
"We mourn the loss of beautiful souls today and pray for those to continue to fight for their lives," the governor said.
Whitmer, acknowledging that Feb. 14 marks the fifth anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, added that the shooting Monday at MSU came on the heels of massacres across the country in 2022, and, most recently, during a Lunar New Year celebration in Southern California.
"Looking back at a year marked by shootings at grocery stores, parades, and so many other ordinary everyday situations, we cannot keep living like this. Our children are scared to go to school. People feel unsafe," said Whitmer, adding, "We must act and we will ... we will do that with the full support of the state of Michigan and the federal government."
Some current Michigan State students are originally from Oxford, a town in Oakland County about an hour's drive from the university campus in East Lansing. Some students now attending MSU were enrolled at Oxford High School when four students were killed in a mass shooting in November 2021. Another six students, as well as one teacher, were injured.
"As the representative of Oxford, Michigan, I cannot believe I am here 15 months later doing this again," said Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin, adding that it was "haunting to see a young person wearing an Oxford Strong sweatshirt" at MSU and noted how Oxford High School graduates now attending the university are "experiencing their second school shooting in a year-and-a-half."
"If this is not a wakeup call, I don't know what is," said Slotkin.
The Oakland County Sheriff's Office, which was called to assist the police response to Monday's shooting, recognized that "this will be a terrible flashback for our Oxford community, especially those students that graduated from Oxford high school and now attend MSU" in a Facebook post.
"This kind of tragedy is so hard to wrap your head around and it's important that you have help to process. For many there will be anxiety, depression, and the feeling of being unsafe and violated," said Oxford Sheriff Mike Bouchard in a separate statement. "To our Oxford community, I know that this is terribly traumatic."
MSU said all campus activities had been canceled for 48 hours, "including athletics, classes, and all campus-related activities. Please DO NOT come to campus tomorrow."
MSU President Teresa Woodruff said at one of the police news conferences that, "We will take two days where we will move to an emergency operation to give ourselves time to think and breathe and be together. To our faculty and staff, we will similarly provide to all of you the next two days to think and grieve and come together and the Spartan community, this family will come back together."
Several school districts in the area canceled classes for Tuesday,.
— Additional reporting by Brian Dakss