Seven dead in US campus shooting, killer identified

By Parveen Chopra, IANS

New York : Six students were killed and 15 injured when a gunman, identified as a former student, opened fire inside a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University (NIU) in suburban Chicago before shooting himself. There was no Indian casualty in the incident, officials said.

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The shooter was identified Friday as former NIU student Steven Kazmierczak. Belonging to Florida, the 27-year-old was currently enrolled as a graduate student at the University of Illinois in the twin cities of Urbana-Champaign, about 200 km from Chicago. He had no previous crime record and his motive is not yet known.

“By all accounts that we can tell right now, (he) was a very good student that the professors thought well of,” said NIU president John Peters on ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’.

Four women are among those who were killed in the Thursday afternoon shooting, Peters said at a news conference Thursday evening. One of the critically injured has died since.

Peters said a graduate student was teaching an introductory geology class at about 3 p.m. in a large auditorium inside Cole Hall, one of NIU’s main classroom buildings, when the gunman burst onto the stage in the front of the room, armed with a shotgun and two handguns.

“The shooter just appeared from behind the screen in front of the classroom in an introductory geology class. According to eyewitnesses, it was a brief, rapid-fire assault,” Peters said.

He added that the gunman, a former graduate student in sociology at NIU, died “apparently from a self-inflicted wound”.

There are close to 25,000 students at NIU, about 100 km west of Chicago. The university has 862 international students from 88 nations, 300-350 being Indian.

Ravi Kiran Mudunuri, president of the Indian Students Association at NIU, told IANS: “As far as the reports go, there is no Indian victim in this senseless tragedy. We have forwarded announcements to members of our organisation to stay calm and inform their parents of the current situation.”

The university has a 300-350 strong Indian students community.

Four of the deceased have been identified as Daniel Parmenter, 20, Catalina Garcia, 20, Ryanne Mace, 19, and Julianna Gehant, 32.

The assailant was described by several witnesses as a young man, dressed in black or dark clothes. He reportedly first fired the shotgun before turning to the handguns and inflicting several head wounds, according to reports.

George Gaynor, a geography student, who was in the lecture hall when the shooting happened, told the student newspaper, the Northern Star, that the shooter was “a skinny white guy with a stocking cap on”.

He described the scene immediately following the incident as terrifying and chaotic. “Some girl got hit in the eye, a guy got hit in the leg,” he said.

Another student, Edward Robinson, said the gunman appeared to target students in one part of the lecture hall. “It was almost like he knew whom he wanted to shoot,” he said.

All classes at NIU were cancelled Thursday night and the campus was closed Friday. Students were urged to call their parents “as soon as possible” and were offered counselling, according to the university website.

The incident followed another campus shooting on Feb 8. A woman shot two fellow students fatally before committing suicide at Louisiana Technical College in Baton Rouge.

The worst campus massacre in the US happened at Virginia Tech university when last April a mentally disturbed South Korean American student killed 32 students and faculty before killing himself. Among the victims were an Indian student and an Indian American professor.