At least three people were killed and five more critically injured after a gunman attacked Michigan State University on Monday night, campus police said. After a four-hour manhunt across a darkened, sprawling campus of 50,000 students, police confronted the gunman, with authorities saying he apparently shot himself shortly after.
The gunman’s death was announced at a midnight press conference by Chris Rozman, a spokesperson for the MSU police. Rozman said the man died with law enforcement present on the scene, saying “the contact we had with the suspect was fluid and dynamic.”
On Tuesday morning, the suspect was identified as 43-year-old Anthony McRae. Although authorities gave no more information about his identity, state records show McRae previously pleaded guilty to a gun-related charge and was sentenced to probation.
Chris Gautz, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections, told the Detroit Free-Press he was caught by officers with a Ruger LCP .380 semi-automatic pistol in his pocket. He was sentenced to probation in late 2019 and was “successfully discharged” in May 2021, Gautz said.
McRae’s attorney from that case did not immediately return a request for comment from The Daily Beast.
Authorities also confirmed Tuesday that all of the victims were students. Their names have not yet been released. The five wounded survivors remain in a critical condition, according to Denny Martin, Chief Medical Officer at E.W. Sparrow Hospital in Lansing. Four required surgery for their injures, Martin added.
Rozman said that two of the dead had been shot at the Berkey Hall, while the final victim was shot at the nearby MSU Union.
Authorities are still searching for a motive, but say McRae was not affiliated in any way with Michigan State University. His final showdown with police was in the city of Lansing, off campus. “We have absolutely no idea what the motive was at this point,” Rozman said Tuesday. Authorities say they found a note while searching McRae and that it's part of their investigation, but did not elaborate on what the note said.
School officials in Ewing Township, New Jersey, said they shut down for the day after being informed by authorities that the note contained a threat to schools in the area. It was later determined that there was no threat.
Michigan Department of Corrections records show McRae was sentenced in November 2019 to 18 months' probation for possessing a loaded firearm inside a vehicle. He was released from supervision in May 2021.
At a late-night press conference Monday, Lansing Mayor Andy Schor attempted to sum up the situation in one sentence: “Tonight night has been horrific.”
Campus police had ordered students to shelter in place immediately around 8:18 p.m. after shots were fired at Berkey Hall. “Secure-in-Place immediately. Run, Hide, Fight,” an initial email alert read.
“Hundreds” of law enforcement officers and agents, including state police, the FBI, and the ATF, then descended upon MSU to aid campus police over the course of the night, Rozman said.
A spokesperson for Sparrow Hospital, a facility less than four miles from campus, told The Daily Beast they had received five victims with “serious injuries.”
In an earlier press conference, Rozman confirmed that two shootings happened at two locations, and that one suspect—a lone gunman—had last seen been leaving the MSU Union on foot.
Rozman had said the gunman was believed to be a Black male, shorter in stature, wearing red shoes, a jean jacket, and a ball cap. Campus police later shared surveillance photos of the suspect, who appeared to be carrying a backpack.
Rozman said he could not comment on the type of weapon used on Monday night, nor whether the man had been carrying additional ammunition when he died.
“We are devastated by the loss of life,” a visibly emotional MSU Interim President Teresa Woodruff said during the late night press conference. “Our hearts hang heavy.”
Woodruff on Tuesday confirmed that classes would be canceled until next week.
Wali Khan, an MSU sophomore, told The Daily Beast that he had taken shelter in a building on campus near the health center. He reported seeing neighbors covering their windows with blankets and sirens “buzzing like crazy” outside.
“I moved here a year and half ago and I’m just shocked this is happening but I’m not surprised,” said Khan, who is from Singapore.
He said he was tuned in to a police scanner, listening as dispatchers rattled off the names of buildings on campus. “I hang out at these places and just imagining blood on those floors make me sick.”
“Having to dread getting a call tomorrow about a friend being dead is not the way I wanted college to be,” Khan said.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer, an MSU graduate, responded to the shooting in a tweet, saying in part, “Let’s wrap our arms around the Spartan community tonight. We will keep everyone updated as we learn more.”
She added later: “Tonight, Spartans will cry and hold each other a little closer. We will mourn the loss of beautiful souls and pray for those fighting for their lives in the hospital.”
East Lansing Public Schools will be closed on Tuesday, and the Michigan House of Representatives also canceled its Tuesday afternoon session.
Several students on campus Monday had come to MSU as survivors of the November 2021 shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan. In an interview with WDIV-TV, Andrea Ferguson, the mother of an Oxford graduate, said her daughter had started studying at MSU in January.
“It’s a surreal experience, to be honest with you,” Ferguson said. “I never expected in my lifetime to have to experience two school shootings... It’s absolutely unbelievably terrifying. But I have to say, once the reality kicked in, she knew what to do.”
In the midst of the search for the gunman, two female students told WXYZ Channel 7 that they were scared—but also intensely frustrated and fed up. “I can’t think; I can’t speak; I’m probably gonna wake up tomorrow and think this was a fever dream,” one said. “I genuinely have no words for this entire situation.”
“We have so many gun drills in high school but it was never real,” her friend said. “And it was never it was always soft lockdowns because it was like someone wrote something on the wall. But now it’s, like, real. And they didn’t even—The high school treated this with 10 times more urgency than [MSU authorities] are treating this.”
“Absolutely,” the first student agreed.
Monday night’s shooting came just ahead of the five-year anniversary of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which a gunman murdered 14 students and 3 staff members.