6 Dead in Northern Illinois University Shooting

DEKALB, Ill. – A masked gunman shot and killed five Northern Illinois University (NIU) students on Feb. 14. At least 15 people were reportedly wounded.  The gunman, who was not a student at the school, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to police.

As many as 13 other victims went to the hospital due to wounds from attempting to escape the gunman.

The gunman was identified as 27-year-old Steve Kazmierczak, who was at one time an award-winning graduate student of sociology at the university. At the time of the shooting, he had been enrolled at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Police said the shooting took place at Cole Hall, a central point on the campus, after 3 p.m. The shooter was reportedly dressed in all black and wore a ski mask. A police scanner signaled authorities about a white, male shooter carrying weapons. Police said the ski mask was not uncommon, as most students cover their faces to protect themselves from the winter cold.

Authorities said Kazmierczak carried a 12 gauge shotgun, .22 pistol and a .9mm pistol that he purchased on Feb. 9 at a gun store in Champaign, Ill. Police said the purchased weapons indicate that the shooter had planned the attack at least five days in advance. Kazmierczak also carried a .45 Glock semi-automatic handgun.

Campus police said Kazmierczak had stopped taking his medication two weeks prior to the shooting and had become somewhat erratic; however, his purchases of the weapons were legal, and there was no reason why he should be denied purchase.

Kazmierczak was highly revered by faculty and students alike, police said.

Police identified the five deceased students as: Daniel Parmenter, 20; Catalina Garcia, 20; Ryanne Mace, 19; Julianna Gehant, 32; and Gayle Dubowski, 20.Students were alerted of the gunman through intercom and the NIU Web site. Students and faculty were told to stay away from all buildings in the vicinity of Cole Hall.

Witnesses said it appeared the gunman was aiming to hit as many as he could. Police are unaware of the shooter’s motive.

The school was placed on lockdown, and classes were canceled for the remainder of the day, as well as Feb. 15.

In December 2007, NIU was closed for one day as a result of a threat placed on the wall of the women’s bathroom stating that “things will change most hastily.” At that time, police believed the Martin Luther King Commons were in danger.

The International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) issued a statement offering condolences to the families of the victims in the shooting, and also stated that “the shootings underscore the complex challenges campus public safety professionals face in protecting the lives and property at colleges and universities. Fatal shootings are rare on college campuses, but we must remember each one and take what lessons we can learn from them to prevent future tragedies from occurring.”

The NIU incident is the worst campus shooting since the April 16, 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech where 32 people were shot by a student who then turned the gun on himself.

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