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Illinois shooter was 'outstanding' student

Latest update : 2008-02-17

Police have identified the shooter, who killed five people before killing himself at Northern Illinois University, as Stephen Kazmierczak, an outstanding graduate student with no history of trouble.

The gunman who shot dead five people at a university here was identified Friday as an "outstanding" graduate student with no history of trouble but signs of erratic behavior in the last two weeks.
Officials drew a mixed picture of Stephen Kazmierczak, 27, who opened fire in a lecture hall at Northern Ilinois University on Thursday, killing five students and wounding 15 others before turning his gun on himself.
"He was an outstanding student," university police chief Donald Grady told a news conference. "He was someone that was revered by the faculty and staff and students alike."
"We had no indication at all that this would be the type of person to engage in this type of activity," Grady said of the Valentine's Day carnage.
Officials said Kazmierczak was enrolled at Northern Illinois last year but was a graduate student in social work at another area school, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, at the time of the shooting.
"He was a fairly normal, unstressed person," Grady said. But he added that Kazmierczak's family reported the gunman had been on some unnamed medication and stopped taking it.
"He had been somewhat erratic in the last two weeks," the police chief said, without elaborating. He said Kazmierczak left no note and there was no clue as to the motive behind the mass shooting.
The Northern Illinois website said Kazmierczak received the Dean's award in 2006, was formerly vice president of the university's Academic Criminal Justice Association, and co-authored a paper on self-injury in prisons.
A blurb accompanying the paper described Kazmierczak's "interests in corrections, political violence, and peace and social justice" and said he was also working on a manuscript on the role of religion in early US prisons.
Authorities first said that Kazmierczak killed six people, but revised the toll to five, citing a "miscommunication" with a local hospital where the victims were transported.
US President George W. Bush on Friday regretted the "tragic" incident.
"Obviously, a tragic situation on that campus, and I asked our fellow citizens to offer their blessings," Bush told reporters in Washington.
Officials and witnesses said that Kazmierczak, armed with a shotgun and three handguns, calmly stepped out from behind a curtain at the front of the  auditorium just minutes before the end of a geology class.
Screams filled the hall as he sprayed bullets into the auditorium filled with dozens of students at the campus in DeKalb, a small town west of Chicago.
"He just fired directly into the audience," said John Giovanni, a student in the class. "He didn't say a word. It didn't look like he was aiming directly at someone. I think he was trying to hit as many people as he could."
Screaming students ducked for cover, some crawling on their bellies, others cowering behind seats while others made for the doors.
"After he fired the first shot, everybody got down. A lot of people were screaming. Everybody started running for the door," another witness, Zach Seward, told CNN.
"I turned and I ran for the door. On my way out, I heard a couple more shots go off. I wasn't sure if one was going to hit me in the back. I ran as fast as I could to my dormitory. So it was just complete chaos, really."
The massacre was the fifth school shooting in a week, following episodes in Ohio, Louisiana, Tennessee and California that left a total of five dead.
And it came 10 months after 32 students and faculty were shot down by a mentally disturbed student at Virginia Tech University in the deadliest massacre ever at a US school.
Northern Illinois University was placed on a security alert in December after police found threats on a bathroom wall laced with racial slurs,  references to the Virginia Tech shooting and a warning that "things will change most hastily" in the final days of the semester.
But university president John Peters said he did not think Thursday's shooting was related to the threats and said that while security has been heightened there was not much more officials could have done.
"I don't know of any plan that can prevent this tragedy," he told reporters. "Unless we lock every door I don't know how we can keep people out."

Date created : 2008-02-15