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MSU community grieves after attack leaves three students dead, five critically injured

The message "how many more" appears on a boulder known as The Rock at Michigan State University the day after a mass shooting on campus left three students dead and five others hospitalized in critical condition.
Colin Jackson
Michigan Public Radio Network
The message "how many more" appears on a boulder known as The Rock at Michigan State University the day after a mass shooting on campus left three students dead and five others hospitalized in critical condition.

All day, Michigan State University students have been paying tribute to victims of a Monday night mass shooting by dropping off flowers at a makeshift memorial at a place on campus known to many as “the rock.”

MSU senior Sarah Lenhoff is among those who stopped by. She said she watched some of what unfolded at the university's Student Union building, where authorities say one person was killed.

“I live directly across the street from the union and me and my roommate are nosey so we ran to the window and we saw some cops. And I watched everyone flood out of the building and so this is the only way I could think to process it,” Lenhoff said.

The shooting began at Berkey Hall on MSU’s campus, a place known for hosting the school’s College of Social Science and several classrooms.

Authorities say a 43-year-old gunman opened fire on students there a little after 8 p.m. Monday before continuing his assault at the student union a few buildings down. Police say the suspect eventually took his own life after killing three students and injuring five others.

Leeslie Herrera told WKAR she was in a study room at the union when gunshots began going off.

“I didn’t necessarily believe that it was gunshots because why would there be gunshots in the union?” Herrera said.

The injured students were being treated at Sparrow Hospital, about ten minutes down the road from MSU.

It’s been a trying moment for interim hospital president Dr. Denny Martin, who teared up during a Tuesday morning press conference. He said four of the students required surgery.

“They’re conditions are evolving. Again, I’ll say that they’re all absolutely in a critical condition. But there’s varying degrees of that. But it’s too early on their course to give any kind of prognosis at this point,” Martin said.

University police haven’t released many details about the suspect. Police said they located him around three hours after the incident, following the release of security camera images and a tip from a citizen.

The suspect was found dead in Lansing, off the MSU campus, from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. MSU interim Deputy Police Chief Chris Rozman said they’re still working to find a motive.

“We have absolutely no idea what the motive was at this point. We can confirm that the 43-year-old suspect had no affiliation to the university. He was not a student, faculty staff or staff — current or previous,” Rozman told reporters Tuesday morning.

This is the second mass shooting at a school to have occurred in Michigan in less than two years. It was in November of 2021 that a student at Oxford High School opened fire on his classmates, killing four and injuring seven people, including a teacher.

Some photos taken during Monday night’s emergency showed at least one MSU student wearing a sweatshirt memorializing the Oxford shooting. On Tuesday, Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (D-MI 7), who represents the area, called for action.

“I cannot believe that I’m here again doing this 15 months later. And I’m filled with rage that we have to have another press conference to talk about our children being killed in their schools. And I would say that you either care about protecting kids or you don’t,” Slotkin said.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer shared Slotkin’s sentiments.

In a press release Tuesday afternoon, Whitmer lamented that school violence continues.

“We should not, we cannot, accept living like this. We must work together to end gun violence that claims the lives of too many of our fellow Americans and upends the lives of countless others every day,” Whitmer said.

After the mass shooting at Oxford High School, state lawmakers proposed a safe storage law and rules that would allow someone’s gun to be taken away if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others — often known as red-flag laws. But they never moved under what was then a Republican-controlled Legislature.

Democrats now have the majorities to get them passed. At the state Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) promised legislation in the aftermath of this shooting at Michigan State.

“Whether it’s mass shootings, homicides, or suicide, we know there is not one bill or policy that can make all that go away overnight. Be we do know that there is to a culture of violence that we can make a direct impact on,” Brinks said.

She said bills would likely include safe storage rules, universal background checks, and red-flag laws.

The Senate minority leader, Republican Aric Nesbitt, said in a statement that the state has "invested significant resources in making our schools safer" in recent years.

"We need to continue those efforts, while also pursuing improvements to mental health screening and care," he said. "Proposing bills that do not address the root causes of this epidemic just to do something, is just as bad as doing nothing."

MSU’s interim president, Teresa Woodruff, said counseling sources are available. Classes won’t be held until next Monday.

“We ask each of you to honor your feelings and to take care of yourself and each other. And together, we will come back more resilient than ever,” Woodruff said.

That may take some time for the East Lansing community.

At the rock serving Tuesday as a makeshift memorial, red letters spray painted on it asked a simple question: “How many more?”

Michelle Jokisch Polo and Melorie Begay contributed reporting.

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