Northern Illinois University Says 16 Others Wounded
The president of Northern Illinois University said five people died Thursday in a "rapid fire" shooting at a lecture hall that ended in the gunman's suicide.
University President John Peters said four of the victims, including the gunman, were found dead at the scene of the shooting, which took place shortly after 3 p.m. CST on Thursday.
Another two people died later at a nearby DeKalb, Ill., hospital and 16 others were injured in the shooting, Peters said.
The victims were four females and two males, with all but the gunman Northern Illinois University students, Peters said. Included among the wounded was a graduate student teaching the class who was expected to recover, he said.
The gunman, who authorities were not identifying Thursday night, was an NIU graduate student in the spring of 2007, but was no longer a student at the university, Peters said.
Peters said witnesses in the geology class saw someone dressed in black come out from behind a screen in front of the classroom and open fire with a shotgun.
Campus Police Chief Donald Grady said the gunman died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on a stage in the front of the lecture hall. He said the whole incident was over in about two minutes and that police did not have a motive in the shooting.
Earlier, a spokeswoman for Kishwaukee Community Hospital in DeKalb said the hospital had received 18 victims from the shooting, including one "walking wounded" that came to the hospital a while after the shooting.
She said three had been discharged and two admitted to the hospital. Six were in critical condition and were flown to other hospitals, she said. She confirmed the death of one unidentified male who was not the shooter.
The shooting took place in Cole Hall near the King Commons, a central gathering place on the 25,000-student campus, according to the university's Web site. The university is about 65 miles west of Chicago.
NIU professor Allen May told WISN-TV in Milwaukee that the gunman dropped from an overhead position in the lecture hall and took aim at students with a shotgun.
"It would be someone who would have to know the physical layout and architecture of that room," May said. "I don't know how you suddenly magically appear from a rafter area and just drop down onto the main portion of it without having been in that area in that building in that class room before."
May said he assumed most of the injured were students since it took place in a classroom, but he wasn't sure if any non-students were among the injured.
Paul Sundstrom said he was in geography class in the Cole Hall auditorium when the gunfire broke out, reported WMAQ-TV in Chicago.
"We were sitting in the fourth row and the guy came in from behind where the professor was speaking. He had a black beany, like a long black trench coat and a shotgun, and he just walked in and just started shooting at people randomly," Sundstrom said. "I crawled out to the main aisle, then just got up and ran and turned around and saw him shooting."
Sundstrom said there were 150 to 200 students in the auditorium when the shooting started.
Tom Ahern, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the gunman used a 12-gauge shotgun and a handgun. Ahern said agents did not know the make or models of the guns, but they would be analyzed on a high-priority basis.
Campus has been locked down, according to DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott. Students have reported police cars and ambulances on campus, with streets blocked off.
A sophomore told WBBM radio that he was sitting in geology class when a young white male took out a 12-gauge shotgun and started shooting in Cole Hall, WMAQ reported.
The student said he ran, but believes a professor may have been shot. That information has not been confirmed.
"I was in class, and everything was normal. A student from a different class came in and said there had been a shooting and everyone had to get out of here," another student, named Noah, told WMAQ.
Noah said his professor had one student go to an administrative office and ask what was happening. The student returned and said that the shooting was confirmed, and that students should leave.
NIU confirmed the shooting in a posting on its Web site.
The university was urging people not to come to campus and all activities were cancelled at the campus for Thursday and Friday.
The school was closed for one day during final exam week in December after campus police found threats, including racial slurs and references to shootings earlier in the year at Virginia Tech, scrawled on a bathroom wall in a dormitory. Police determined after an investigation that there was no imminent threat and the campus was reopened.
Grady said campus police didn't have any credible threats prior to Thursday's shooting. He said the university had taken all precautions it could against violence on campus.
"I wish I could tell you there was a panacea for this, but you've seen the reports of shootings like this across the nation," Grady said. "It's very hard to prevent a situation like this."