|Northern Illinois University shooting|
Members of the NIU community look at a temporary memorial after the shooting.
|Location||DeKalb, Illinois, United States|
|Date||Thursday, February 14, 2008
3:05 p.m. (CST)
|Target||Northern Illinois University|
|Attack type||School shooting, murder-suicide|
|Weapon(s)||Remington 870 shotgun, 9 mm Glock, 9 mm Sig Sauer, .380 Hi-Point|
|Death(s)||6 (including the perpetrator)|
|Perpetrator||Steven Phillip Kazmierczak|
The Northern Illinois University shooting was a school shooting that took place on February 14, 2008, during which a gunman shot multiple people on the campus of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois, United States, killing six and wounding eighteen.
The incident happened at the campus's Cole Hall at approximately 3:06 p.m. local time. The school placed the campus on lockdown; students and teachers were advised to head to a secure location, take cover, and avoid the scene and all buildings in the vicinity of the area. Six people died in the incident, including the perpetrator, making it the fourth-deadliest university shooting in United States history, after the Virginia Tech massacre, the University of Texas Clock Tower shooting, and the California State University, Fullerton library massacre.
After the incident, the university administration cancelled all classes for the rest of the week as well as the following week.
At approximately 3:06 p.m. CST, Steven Kazmierczak entered a large auditorium-style lecture hall in Cole Hall with 150 to 200 students, where an oceanography class was in session. The door Kazmierczak used led directly to the stage in front of the classroom; it was there he stood and fired into the crowd of students with a Remington 870 shotgun and three handguns (a 9mm Glock, a 9mm Sig Sauer, and a .380 Hi-Point). The shotgun was smuggled in using a guitar case and the handguns were concealed under his coat. At the time of the shootings, Kazmierczak was a graduate student in the school of social work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; he was also a former NIU Sociology graduate student. NIU Police Chief Donald Grady described him as "an outstanding student" who reportedly stopped taking medication recently and became "somewhat erratic".
A total of 24 people were shot, six of whom died (including the perpetrator, who shot himself before police arrived). One witness reported that at least 30 shots were fired by the gunman; police later collected 48 shell casings and 6 shotgun shells. By February 15, at least seven of the victims were in critical condition, one in good condition, one in stable and eight discharged, according to Kishwaukee Community Hospital. Two of the wounded were transferred by helicopter to Rockford's Saint Anthony Medical Center, three to Downers Grove's Good Samaritan Hospital, and one to Rockford Memorial Hospital. Two patients who had been hospitalized died as a result of their injuries. By 4:00 pm CST, school officials announced that there was no further danger and that counselors would be made available in all residence halls.
A total of eighteen people survived the incident with injuries. Like those killed, all were from Illinois:
The perpetrator of the Northern Illinois University shooting was 27-year-old Steven Phillip Kazmierczak, a former student of NIU. He was born in Elk Grove Village, Illinois on August 26, 1980 to Gail and Robert Kazmierczak. He graduated from Elk Grove High School in 1998, during which he was treated temporarily for mental illness at the Elk Grove Village Thresholds-Mary Hill House psychiatric center, for being "unruly" at home, according to his parents. He later went on to study sociology at Northern Illinois University (NIU). Though his family moved to Florida in 2004, Kazmierczak continued his education in Illinois. He enlisted in the United States Army in September 2001, and was discharged before completing basic training in February 2002 for lying on his application about his mental illness. His mother died in Lakeland, Florida in September 2006 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrigâ€™s disease). At the time of Steven's death, his father was living in a retirement community in Lakeland.
Kazmierczak graduated from NIU in 2006 where he received the Dean's award in 2006 and was considered a stand-out, well-regarded student. Campus police describe him as a "fairly normal" and "unstressed person." Faculty, students, and staff "revered" him and there was no indication of any trouble. NIU President John G. Peters said that he had "a very good academic record, no record of trouble." Kazmierczak was Vice-President of the NIU chapter of the American Correctional Association; he had also written about the U.S. correctional system, specifically prisons.
In 2006, Kazmierczak, along with two other graduate students and under the lead authorship of a sociology professor, co-authored an academic paper entitled, "Self-injury in Correctional Settings: 'Pathology' of Prisons or of Prisoners?"; it was published in the academic journal Criminology & Public Policy.
He was enrolled at NIU in the spring of 2007, where he took two courses in Arabic and a course called ""Politics of the Middle East". His research paper was on the subject of Hamas and its social service projects. He left to begin graduate work in the School of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), where he intended to study mental health issues. He was enrolled part-time at UIUC during the fall of 2007 and worked from September 24 through October 9 at the Rockville Correctional Facility for Women near the Illinois-Indiana border. His reasons for leaving were unclear; he simply, "did not come back to work," according to Doug Garrison of the Indiana Department of Correction. By early 2008, he was again enrolled full time at UIUC.
He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound during this shooting event. ABC News reports that his behavior seemed to become more erratic in the weeks leading up to the shooting, and that it is believed he stopped taking medication beforehand. His girlfriend, Jessica Baty, confirmed that Kazmierczak was taking Xanax (anti-anxiety), Ambien (sleep aid), and Prozac (antidepressant), all of which were prescribed to him by a psychiatrist. She said that he stopped taking Prozac about three weeks prior to the February 14 shooting. She also said that, during their two-year courtship, she had never seen him display violent tendencies and she expressed bewilderment over the cause of the rampage. "He was anything but a monster," Baty said. "He was probably the nicest, most caring person ever." Since the shooting, authorities have intercepted a number of packages he sent to her, which included such items as a gun holster and ammunition, a textbook on serial killers for her class, the book The Antichrist by Friedrich Nietzsche, and a final note written for her, signed with his given name and family name. The shooting was baffling to those who knew him, as he appeared outgoing and never appeared to have social problems. This has also confused investigators, who have not found a suicide note. Some of Kazmierczak's former NIU roommates described him as a quiet man who usually stayed to himself. They stated that, while fairly normal, they did not see him spend much time with other students.
Kazmierczak described himself as a sensitive person in his personal statement for UIUC graduate school. He also felt victimized during his adolescent years. He expressed interest in helping people with mental problems, and wanted to work with people "in need of direction." Although initial reports said there were no signs, he was considered troubled. A story published by Esquire stated that he allegedly had a history of mental illness and attempted suicides, was bullied in high school, and had shown an interest in previous school shootings, particularly those that occurred at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech.
The university's official website reported the possibility of a gunman on campus at 3:20, within 20 minutes of the shooting. The website then warned students, "There has been a report of a possible gunman on campus. Get to a safe area and take precautions until given the all clear. Avoid the King Commons and all buildings in that vicinity." By 3:40 p.m., all NIU classes were canceled for the remainder of the day and the campus was closed by NIU officials as part of a new security plan devised after the Virginia Tech shooting 10 months earlier. Students were asked to contact their parents as soon as possible. All NIU Huskie sporting events, home and away, through Sunday were canceled. Most students left campus for the weekend. A spokesman for the ATF stated that agents were dispatched to the scene to assist and to help trace the weapons used. The FBI also sent agents to assist. According to police, Steven Kazmierczak removed the hard drive from his laptop computer and a computer chip from his cell phone and did not leave a note that could help explain why he chose a geology class on Valentine's Day to open fire. Investigators were expected to spend at least three more weeks until releasing a report on the incident.
Approximately 2,000 gathered on campus on the evening of Friday, February 15, for a candlelight vigil to commemorate the victims; among other public figures, Jesse Jackson and Robert W. Pritchard spoke. In the days after the shooting, the Lutheran Campus Ministry held nightly candlelight vigils. All classes and athletic events were canceled through February 24, 2008. Faculty and staff returned to work on Tuesday, February 19, and for the remainder of that week received special information and training to help students upon their return to classes the following week. On February 21, exactly a week after the shooting happened, five minutes of silence were observed from 3:06-3:11 pm CST, accompanied by the tolling of bells throughout the community, at a special ceremony attended by thousands in memory of the victims which was held at the MLK Commons. Moments of silence were also held elsewhere throughout the DeKalb community. There was a special memorial service held in the NIU Convocation Center on February 24, the day before classes resumed, in honor of the victims that initiated a set of activities and services aimed at community recovery. Due to the loss of one week of instructional time in the middle of the semester, an extra week was added in May.
United States President George W. Bush, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, U.S. Senators Barack Obama and Dick Durbin, and U.S. Congressman Donald Manzullo offered their personal condolences to NIU President John Peters and the University community in wake of the tragedy, as did many local communities and school districts, and a plethora of universities across the United States. The Chicago Blackhawks NHL franchise wore NIU Huskies decals on their helmets during their game on Sunday, February 17, 2008, versus the Colorado Avalanche. A moment of silence was also observed before the national anthem at the game, and the team wore the same decal during its next two games at the St. Louis Blues and at home against the Minnesota Wild. The Chicago Wolves of the AHL held an NIU night during which there was a moment of silence and NIU students were given the opportunity to participate during in game promotions. During spring training, Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie GuillÃ©n and general manager Ken Williams sported NIU caps in tribute to the victims. For their 2008 season, the Chicago Cubs flew an NIU flag over the grandstands in the out field. Virginia Tech had a tribute with students wearing shirts saying "Hokies for Huskies". Students wore these shirts during their basketball game against Georgia Tech on February 23, 2008.
On February 25, then-Governor Rod Blagojevich and University President John G. Peters proposed the demolition of the current Cole Hall. The proposal came as a response to the "bad" memories of the students who have to attend classes in the building. The proposal would tear down Cole Hall, leave the Cole Hall site as a memorial site, and erect a new building called "Memorial Hall" nearby, at a cost of approximately $40 million.
However, due to mixed emotions on the decision, President Peters sent out a message to all NIU students via their student email accounts, soliciting comments from students and the extended NIU family. In addition, a committee was established to help reach a consensus on the future of Cole Hall.
On May 8, 2008 it was announced that Cole Hall would be remodeled inside and out pending $7.7 million in state funding. This decision was made based on conversations between Dr. Peters and members of the campus community as well as the results of an online survey taken by students and faculty. The lecture hall where the shooting happened will be no longer be used as classroom space and another lecture hall will be built elsewhere on campus.
On August 27, 2009, the NIU Board of Trustees approved a $9.5 million budget on the Cole Hall renovation project, approximately $8 million of which will come from the aforementioned state funding, and the rest from student fees. The East auditorium, which was the scene of the incident, will no longer be used for classes, and a replacement lecture hall will be built elsewhere on campus.
On January 27, 2010, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn came to the NIU campus to release the funds for the renovation of Cole Hall.
On October 2, 2009, a metal sculpture designed by artist Bruce Neimi entitled "Remembered" was unveiled at Northern Illinois University. The sculpture is part of garden built in remembrance of the victims of the NIU shooting, located directly across from Cole Hall. The memorial area also features five red granite walls erected in a half-circle pattern which read "Forward Together Forward Together Forward." The phrase, borrowed from the university's fight song, became a motto and theme used in the healing of the NIU community after the shooting. Each wall features the name of one of the students who died in the shooting. A walking path with benches is also included. The memorial is flanked by trees and shrubbery. The memorial was funded entirely by private donations.
The campus was shut down on December 10, 2007, the first day during exam week, after graffiti was found on a restroom wall warning of a possible shooting. A university spokesman said that the warning, which was discovered December 10, made reference to the Virginia Tech massacre, in which 32 people were killed, but it could not be immediately determined whether the threat was related to the shootings on February 14, 2008. The Chicago Sun-Times reported at that time that an unknown person posted the graffiti in the Grant Towers D residence hall, which included a racial slur and the notation "What time? The VA tech shooters [sic] messed up w/ having only one shooter." However, NIU President John Peters stated that he did not believe that the December incident is connected to the February 14 shootings.