News

Illinois gunman kills six

At Northern Illinois University last Thursday, Feb. 14, a gunman opened fire in a lecture hall, killing six students including himself and injuring 16 others, three of whom remain in critical condition.

According to a Feb. 15 CNN article, the gunman was identified as Steven P. Kamierczak, a former graduate student in sociology at the university.

At 3:06 p.m., Kazmierczak opened the door to a geology lecture in Clarke Hall and started shooting. He is believed to have fired close to 30 shots at the 160 students present. The students had been watching a PowerPoint presentation when Kazmierczak burst in, dressed all in black from his pants to his hat.

CNN reported that university police officers entered the building just as students were fleeing. When they arrived, Kazmierczak had already killed himself.

The five victims were all students: three were 20, one was 19, and one was 32. No connection has been discovered between Kazmierczak and the students he killed and injured.

Lieutenant John Race of Carnegie Mellon University Policsaid that a university police force can only do so much in terms of prevention.

Northern Illinois University President John Peters acknowledged this fact.

“While universities traditionally have been some of the most open institutions, events like this and Virginia Tech and others are forcing us to reconsider how we do things,” Peters said in a press release. “I think that is unfortunate but necessary.”

The University of Northern Illinois had revised its safety policies after Virginia Tech, instituting a campus alert system, according to the release.

By 3:20 p.m., the alert messages went out via the school web site, e-mail, voice mail, the campus crisis hotline, the news media, and alarm systems. The alerts caused chaos on campus, CNN reported, leaving many wondering how such a tragedy could have happened.

Northern Illinois University police do know that Kazmierczak had been on medication for an illness, although the specifics have not yet been released.

Northern Illinois police also said that there had been no red flags. Kazmierczak had been an outstanding student, winning several academic awards, and was popular among students, faculty, and staff.

While Northern Illinois police do not know how long Kazmierczak had been planning for his actions on Thursday, he had been buying guns since last December. He bought one in December, one in August, and two more guns and a holster on Feb. 4.

Kazmierczak’s source for the last two guns showed an eerie connection to Virginia Tech’s violent shooting last April. He bought his last two firearms from a website operated by TGSCOM Inc., the same company that operated the website from which Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter, had bought his weapons. Cho went on to kill 32 people before killing himself. However, Northern Illinois police have concluded that the website is a coincidence, and that the shooting bears no connection to the Virginia Tech massacre.

Northern Illinois University has received condolences from every direction, including President George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and the president of Virginia Tech. Cohon has written to Northern Illinois University President Peters expressing condolences on behalf of Carnegie Mellon faculty, stuff, and students. Cohon also issued an e-mail letter to the Carnegie Mellon community offering condolences and counseling services, and informing people of new campus safety measures.

“I also encourage you to register for our Alert Now Emergency Notification Service,” Cohon wrote in the e-mail.

The Alert Now system was put into place after the Virginia Tech massacre; 6500 students, faculty, and staff have already subscribed. The service automatically sends out text messages or voicemails when a campus emergency issue has been raised. Members of the Carnegie Mellon community can subscribe in a matter of seconds at www.cmu.edu/alert. For those not subscribed to this service, updates will always be available on the Carnegie Mellon homepage and web portal.

Teresa Thomas, assistant vice president of media relations for Carnegie Mellon, explained that the university is always working to improve safety procedures.

“Carnegie Mellon has a team that conducts drills on a variety of emergency management protocols from shootings to accidents to pandemics. Our campus police also drill with state police experts on scenarios like this,” Thomas said.

Cohon insisted in his e-mail that at times like these, one must take comfort in the university community.

“I remain grateful for the supportive community of which we are all a part, including your attention to the safety and security of all its members,” Cohon wrote.