Death Toll Rises, Gunman Identified In NIU Shootings

DEKALB, ILL (AP) — Multiple sources have confirmed that former Northern Illinois University student Stephen Kazmierczak is likely responsible for Thursday’s shooting rampage on NIU’s campus, where six people – including the gunman – were killed.

Kazmierczak, a 27-year-old former NIU graduate student, was identified by Florida authorities and a university official Friday morning as the alleged gunman. Numerous reports say he walked onto the stage of a crowded lecture hall and opened fire Thursday afternoon, killing five and wounding at least 15 others before killing himself.

There were still a lot of unanswered questions the day after the shooting. Police say they have no motive for the rapid-fire assault, which was carried out with a shotgun and three handguns. The shotgun was apparently brought on campus in a guitar case.

“We have no idea at this time what his motive might possibly have been,” Campus Police Chief Donald Gray said during a Friday morning press briefing. Gray also mentioned that no note had been found, and it is unknown whether Kazmierczak targeted specific people or just shot at random.

In fact, Kazmierczak was cited by Gray, NIU’s President and others as a student in good University standing, having received an undergraduate sociology degree in 2006 before continuing with graduate school studies in the Spring semester of 2007.

There was “no indications at all that this would be the type of student to carry out such acts,” Gray said.

The only remote indication Friday that something was wrong with Kazmierczak is that the alleged gunman was taking an undisclosed medication and had stopped taking that medication recently, leading him to “become erratic in the past two weeks.”

Kevin Cronin, an agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said that two of the guns – registered in Kazmierczak’s name – were acquired in Champagne, Illinois six days prior to the shooting.

“As far as we know it was a lawful purchase,” Cronin said.

Police say they found 48 handgun casings and six shotgun shells at the scene, giving them some indication of how many shots were fired. However, despite the barrage of gunfire, the episode was over in mere minutes, and Gray said that the police response couldn’t have been more efficient.

“The recovery efforts were remarkable,” Gray said, citing a unified response that brought multiple officers to the scene, some within the first minute of the shooting. He called the incident “a tragic set of circumstances that nobody could have predicted” and repeated that the emergency response was “excellent.”

Classes were canceled Friday on the campus of 25,000 in DeKalb, about 65 miles west of Chicago.

More than 100 NIU students cried and hugged overnight as they held a candlelight vigil outside a frat house to mourn a sophomore who was among those killed.

Friday morning, President Bush was among those to extend their sympathies and words of comfort to the friends and families of the shooting victims.

Bush talked by telephone with NIU President John Peters and said that a lot of people will be praying for the families of the victims and for the Northern Illinois University community.

During a meeting with Republican congressional leaders in the White House, Bush said he was asking citizens across the country to “offer their blessings – blessings of comfort and blessings of strength.”

In Lakeland, Florida, the gunman’s father briefly came to the door of his home and asked the several reporters gathered there to leave him alone. Saying “this is a very hard time,” Robert Kazmierczak said he would make no statements, then broke down in tears.