Illinois University Shooter Halted Medication

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The gunman in Thursday's shooting at Northern Illinois University had stopped taking his medication and became erratic before opening fire inside a lecture hall, police say. Five people were killed before Stephen Kazmierczack killed himself.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

Officials at Northern Illinois University today identified the gunman who killed five people and wounded 16 others before killing himself yesterday. He is Stephen Kazmierczak.

The university says he behaved erratically in recent days and had bought weapons that he smuggled on to campus.

NPR's Cheryl Corley reports from DeKalb, Illinois.

CHERYL CORLEY: A year ago, anyone would've called 27-year-old Stephen Kazmierczak a model student, a graduate who was continuing his studies in sociology with a keen interest in social justice and criminal law.

Before he transferred to the University of Illinois, he had published a study on prison policy. Officials here in DeKalb say Kazmierczak was revered by the faculty and staff he worked, but university president John Peters describe quite a different person when he was speaking about the gunman who returned to his old school and gone on a shooting rampage.

Mr. JOHN PETERS (President, Northern Illinois University): We were dealing with a disturbed individual, who intended to do harm on this campus.

CORLEY: Kazmierczak had no police record, and Northern Illinois University's police, Donald Grady, says investigators still have no idea why he went on a shooting spree. Kazmierczak killed himself but left no note. Chief Grady says they've been talking to people who were close to him.

Mr. DONALD GRADY (Chief of Police, Northern Illinois University): And apparently, he had been taking medications. He had stopped taking those medications and he had become somewhat erratic in the last couple of weeks.

CORLEY: When he burst through a door and entered the Cole building lecture hall, Kazmierczak had four guns with him. Chief Grady says two of them - a pump-action Remington shotgun and a Glock 9 mm handgun were purchased legally less than a week ago down in Champaign, Illinois, where the gunman was currently going to school. Kazmierczak also had a valid firearm owner's identification card, which is required for Illinois residence to own firearms.

Chief Grady says people didn't notice Kazmierczak before the shooting.

Mr. GRADY: He was seen outside of the building, but they didn't necessarily see any weapons. He carried the shotgun in a guitar case. He had a coat on over top of the belt that carried the weapons and the ammunition that he had, so no one would have seen that.

CORLEY: Investigators recovered 48 shells and six shotgun shells, as terrified students were running and crawling for the exits. Chief Grady says the gunman paused once to reload his shotgun. In addition to the five students who died, 16 others were injured. Dr. Roger Maillefer was the emergency room surgeon on call at Kishwaukee Community Hospital, where many of the victims were first taken.

Dr. ROGER MAILLEFER (General Surgeon, Kishwaukee Community Hospital): As you can imagine in a classroom full of students that were trying to leave as buckshot was being fired at them, there were a variety of injuries from the front and from the back. These are little pellets. They look like little BBs. And although on the surface, they look very small and insignificant, they can travel to places where they're not supposed to be.

(Soundbite of choir singing)

CORLEY: There have been numerous prayer vigils today and yesterday for those remaining on the NIU campus, as the people here try to come to terms with the horror that has ripped DeKalb. As soon as the all clear was given late yesterday afternoon, many students headed home to get away from the tragedy. Others called for their parents to come pick them up. But Raymond Perkins, a senior from Chicago says he wants to stay here to support his friends.

Mr. RAYMOND PERKINS (Student, Northern Illinois University): On my floor, yeah, like, you live around these people every day. You see them all day every day. You spend 24/7 with each other and you can't help but get close. And so just to make them feel better, I decided that I'm going to stay if they're going to stay.

CORLEY: Zach Mazure(ph), a junior, who was walking outside of Cole Hall when the shooting occurred says he honestly hasn't decided if he'll stick around.

Mr. ZACH MAZURE (Student, Northern Illinois University): After seeing these people completely scared out of their minds for their lives, sprinting out of the building and hearing gun shots, like, the last thing I want to do is suck it up and go back to school on Monday.

CORLEY: NIU's president says decisions about when to reopen the school will come later. He says, first, this community must try to begin to heal.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, DeKalb.

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NIU Gunman Had 'Stopped Taking Medication'

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Students gather for a prayer service on the campus of Northern Illinois University to pray for those i

Students gather for a prayer service on the campus of Northern Illinois University to pray for those killed and wounded in Thursday's shooting at Cole Hall. hide caption

itoggle caption
Students gather for a prayer service on the campus of Northern Illinois University to pray for those

Students gather for a prayer service on the campus of Northern Illinois University to pray for those killed and wounded in Thursday's shooting at Cole Hall.

The gunman who shot and killed five people at Northern Illinois University before turning the gun on himself had recently become erratic after stopping his medication, authorities said.

The gunman was identified as 27-year-old former student Stephen Kazmierczak. He carried a shotgun in a guitar case along with three handguns into a crowded lecture hall before opening fire on Thursday.

"He had stopped taking medication and become somewhat erratic in the last couple of weeks," Campus Police Chief Donald Grady said, declining to name the drug or provide other details.

Grady said investigators have recovered 48 shell casings and six shotgun shells following the attack.

Two of the weapons — the pump-action Remington shotgun and a Glock 9mm handgun — were purchased legally on Feb. 9, in Champaign, where Kazmierczak was enrolled at the University of Illinois, authorities said.

NIU President John Peters, who defended the university's response to the crisis, said a candlelight vigil was planned Friday night to remember the victims.

Allyse Jerome, 19, a sophomore from Schaumburg, said she was unsure how to react Thursday, when the gunman burst through a stage door and pulled out a gun.

"Honestly, at first everyone thought it was a joke," Jerome said. Everyone hit the floor. Then Jerome got up and ran, but she tripped. Jerome said she "thought for sure he was going to get me."

Senior Anita Hershberger was heading home to Arthur, Ill., after the shooting.

"I myself am in shock and I think a lot of other people are, too," she told NPR. "We heard about (the) Virginia Tech (shooting) and we never really thought something like that would happen here."

She said she hopes to return to help the campus heal.

President Bush on Friday described the shooting as a tragedy and asked people to "offer their blessings."

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