A mass shooting at Michigan State University left three people dead and five others injured Monday evening, triggering an hourslong manhunt and shelter-in-place orders before the suspect died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.
The gunman opened fire at two campus locations, turning the sprawling university where over 19,000 students live into a crime scene and forcing terrified students to hide as hundreds of officers in tactical gear swarmed the school – something that has become a familiar occurrence for many US communities.
It’s unclear what motivated the killings at MSU.
The gunman was a 43-year-old man who was not affiliated with the university, Interim Deputy Chief Chris Rozman said. “We have no idea why he came to campus to do this tonight,” he added.
“I can’t even begin to imagine what that motive would be,” Rozman said. “That will obviously be part of our investigation. I know that that is going to be a question that lingers on everybody’s mind.”
There have been more mass shootings in the US than there have been days so far this year. The attack at MSU marked the 67th mass shooting in 2023, according to data from the non-profit group Gun Violence Archive. Both CNN and GVA define a mass shooting as a shooting that injured or killed four or more people, not including the shooter.
The first report of shots fired came at 8:18 p.m. ET from Berkey Hall, an academic building on the northern end of campus. Officers responded to the building within minutes and found several shooting victims, including two who died, Rozman said.
Immediately after, another shooting was reported nearby at the Michigan State University Union Building, where the third fatality was reported, he said.
At least five people were taken to a hospital, all of them in critical condition, according to Rozman. Police have not disclosed whether the victims included students or released information on their age range.
Hours after the first gunshots rang out, the suspect “was contacted by law enforcement off campus” and “it does appear that that suspect has died from a self inflicted gunshot wound,” Rozman reported.
But the hours of uncertainty that came before police found the suspect fueled chaos across campus, with police saying they got numerous erroneous 911 calls reporting gunshots heard and shootings across different locations on campus.
Authorities called the ordeal “horrific” as students hid and officers fanned out across campus.
Though officials said there is no longer a threat to the campus, the university will move into emergency operations for the next two days, during which time students will experience a continued police presence as investigators probe multiple scenes.
All classes, athletics and campus-related activities at MSU are canceled for 48 hours, campus police said, adding, “Please DO NOT come to campus tomorrow.”
“We want to wrap our warm arms around every family that is touched by this tragedy and give them the peace that passeth understanding in moments like this… we will change over time,” MSU’s interim president Teresa Woodruff said in an overnight news conference. “We cannot allow this to continue to happen again.”
The attack at MSU – which came one day before the five-year anniversary of a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida – resulted in the closure of all East Lansing Public Schools Tuesday.
“Tonight has been horrific. It’s been horrific for all of the students here and around the region. Schools have been closed. This has affected our whole region, our whole community. It’s affected families, everyone across our community,” Lansing Mayor Andy Schor said.
The campus community will need time to heal, officials said.
“This truly has been a nightmare that we are living tonight,” Rozman said. “We are relieved to no longer have an active threat on campus, while we realize that there is so much healing that will need to take place after this,” he added.
The mass shooting made for a terrifying experience for students as the suspect remained at large and officers in tactical gear streamed through the campus.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is on a campus this size how quickly every student staff faculty member immediately took action. They sheltered in place and they did so for hours,” Woodruff said.
MSU student Chris Trush told CNN he saw people running out of the Union building – a congregation spot for students on campus – shortly before an emergency alert went out to students informing them of the shooting on campus.
Trush said he was watching TV just after 8 p.m. in his apartment when he saw police cars and ambulances speeding down Grand River Avenue. He then saw people running out of the Union building.
“That’s when I knew something’s really up,” he said.
Trush said he saw dozens of officers begin to swarm the area with long rifles, and realized a shooting had taken place.
“I’m obviously not going to go outside for the next couple of days,” he said.
As shelter-in-place orders were in effect Monday evening, another student, Gabe Treutel, said he and his dorm mates hunkered down and turned to a local police scanner for information.
Treutel said he and his friends ultimately began barricading their door, just in case a shooter tried to get inside.
Another MSU student, Nithya Charles, told CNN she was sheltering within a lounge area at Campbell Hall on the north side of campus with about 30 other people.
“We’re not learning very much,” Charles told CNN’s Erin Burnett earlier in the night, saying she did not hear any gunshots herself, but that some of her co-workers heard shots.
MSU Vice President for Public Safety and Chief of Police Marlon Lynch said responding to the shooting was a “monumental task” due in part to the size of the campus.
“We have 400 buildings on campus and over 5,300 acres and part of the process of the response that we had is that we were able to divide and organize to be methodical in the search process and obtain evidence and share as it comes through. But with a university our size and the areas that we are responsible for, that becomes a task,” Lynch said.
The two buildings at the center of Monday evening’s shootings are accessible to the general public during business hours, police said in an early morning news conference Tuesday.
Police said it’s unknown how long the suspect was on campus before opening fire.