Six Die in Shooting at Illinois College

A gunman entered a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University armed with a shotgun and two handguns and opened fire Thursday. He killed five students and wounded 16 others before taking his own life.

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ALISON STEWART, host:

We are live from the NPR studios at Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan. This is THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News. We have information and news to help get your weekend started right. I'm Alison Stewart.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

And hey, I'm Rachel Martin.

It's Friday, February 15th, 2008. And you know, we here in at THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT love our jobs, but I'm not going to lie to you. We got the Friday fever today.

STEWART: Blue and who…

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STEWART: …is all I have to say.

MARTIN: And we have a lots of good stuff coming up. We're going to talk about the first ever U.S. government count of fatalities caused by something called the choking game. If you don't know what that is, it's not very fun. Game is kind of a misnomer. You want to stay tuned. We'll tell you why.

We'll also get a preview of the president's trip to Africa. He's supposed to leave shortly. Why wouldn't he? Well, there's some shenanigans on Capitol Hill that happened ahead of his trip. We'll get the details, and music and movies. For Friday, our friend Daniel Holloway is here with what to watch at the multiplex, and Tom Moon with Philly Inquirer will give us an assisted listen to Herbie Hancock's Grammy Award-winning album, "River: The Joni Letters." I'm going to walk you through today's headlines in just a minute. But first, here is the BPP's Big Story.

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Mr. JOHN PETERS (President, Northern Illinois University): There are six fatalities, including the shooter: four females, and two males.

STEWART: That's John Peters, president of Northern Illinois University, speaking to reporters yesterday after a young man dressed in black entered a campus lecture hall armed with a shotgun and two handguns and opened fire. The gunman killed five people, wounded 16 others and took his own life.

MARTIN: Officials have not released the shooter's name and offered no information about his motive. He had been a sociology grad student at NIU, but was not currently enrolled there. He has no police record at the university.

STEWART: Student Desiree Smith was in the lecture for Geology 104 with about 100 classmates. She describes what happened to WGNTV.

Ms. DESIREE SMITH (Student, Northern Illinois University): You know, he just seemed to appear out of nowhere. There's two doors to the auditorium where everyone sits. And in the stage part, there's a back door that like leads to the projection room, I think, or at least to another hallway. And he came in through that back door. And I just looked up, and he was just there all of a sudden. So I didn't even notice that the door was opening for him to come out. And I just - I'll never forget that image of him standing there, holding that huge gun.

STEWART: We have news just in that the total of number of people killed is now up to seven. Another student who was in the classroom, Lauren Karr(ph), described the scene as students fled.

Ms. LAUREN KARR (Student, Northern Illinois University): It was chaos. I was on the ground and got trampled. My back has, like, bruises on it and people stepped on everyone. And you're just trying to get out of there and everyone was screaming and running, and it was really scary.

STEWART: John McGinley(ph) survived the ordeal, but was obviously shaken.

Mr. JOHN McGINLEY (Student, Northern Illinois University): It's shocking that it actually is happening right now. And I've asked my buddy a couple times, is this seriously happening? I was like, this is Virginia Tech stuff.

Unidentified Man: Pretty scary?

Mr. McGINLEY: Very scary.

MARTIN: The attack was the deadliest campus shooting since 32 people were killed at Virginia Tech last April. NIU president John Peters offered condolences to the victims and their families and urged students to seek counseling.

STEWART: Campus police chief Donald Grady responded to questions about how to prevent this kind of campus tragedy.

Mr. DONALD GRADY (Campus Police Chief, Northern Illinois University): You know, I wish I could tell you that there was a panacea for this kind of a thing. But you've noticed that there's been multiple shootings all over this country within the last six months. It's a horrendous circumstance, and as much as we do, it's unlikely that anyone would ever have the ability to stop an incident like this from beginning. Now we do the best that we can to make certain that it doesn't go very far and that we end it very quickly, but it's very difficult to say that we could actually stop someone from beginning an incident like this.

STEWART: Classes at all Northern Illinois University campuses are cancelled today. Again, the death toll in the shooting now up to seven.

That's the BPP's Big Story. Now let's get some more of today's headlines.

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