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Police seek motive of gunman who killed three, wounded five at Michigan State

By JOEY CAPPELLETTI and KEN KUSMER

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Police identified the 43-year-old man who killed three students and wounded five at Michigan State University, saying Tuesday that a tip from the public led to a confrontation with officers miles from campus where the gunman fatally shot himself.

Investigators still were sorting out why Anthony McRae fired inside Berkey Hall and the MSU Union — a popular place for students to eat and study — shortly before 8:30 p.m. Monday. The shootings led to a campus lockdown and a manhunt that ended roughly three hours later.

“We have absolutely no idea what the motive was,” said Chris Rozman, deputy chief of campus police, adding that McRae was not a student or Michigan State employee.

“This is still fluid,” Rozman said. “There are still crime scenes that are being processed, and we still are in the process of putting together the pieces to try to understand what happened.”

The dead and injured all were students, Rozman said. Five remained in critical condition at Sparrow Hospital, said Dr. Denny Martin, who fought back tears during a news conference.

“Our Spartan community is reeling today,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Michigan State graduate, said at the briefing.

Police investigate the scene of a shooting at Berkey Hall on the campus of Michigan State University, late Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

This combination of images from surveillance video provided by Michigan State University Police and Public Safety show a suspect whom authorities are looking for in connection with multiple shootings at the university late Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, in East Lansing, Mich. (Courtesy of MSU Police and Public Safety via AP)

A stretcher is unloaded from an ambulance outside the Michigan State University Union following shootings on campus on Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, in East Lansing, Mich. (Nick King/Lansing State Journal via AP)

Students gather on the campus of Michigan State University after a shelter in place order was lifted early Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, in East Lansing, Mich. A gunman opened fire Monday night at Michigan State University, killing three people and wounding five more, before fatally shooting himself after an hours-long manhunt that forced frightened students to hide in the dark. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

First responders stage outside Berkey Hall following shootings on the campus of Michigan State University, Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

A police officer, with his gun drawn, is seen through the window at an entrance at the Michigan State University Union following shootings on campus on Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, in East Lansing, Mich. (Nick King/Lansing State Journal via AP)

First responders are on the scene at Michigan State University following shootings on campus in East Lansing, Mich., Monday, Feb. 13, 2023. (Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal via AP)

People are seen inside the Broad Art Museum near Berkey Hall on the campus of Michigan State University as they shelter in place, late Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

Michigan State University Interim Deputy Chief Chris Rozman addresses the media, late Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, in East Lansing, Mich. University police say multiple people have been reported injured in shootings on campus. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Michigan State University Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff addresses the media, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, in East Lansing, Mich. A gunman killed several people and wounded others at Michigan State University. The shooting set off an hourslong manhunt as frightened students hid in classrooms and cars. Police said early Tuesday that the shooter eventually killed himself. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

E.W. Sparrow Hospital Dr. Denny Martin address the media, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, in East Lansing, Mich. A gunman killed several people and wounded others at Michigan State University. The shooting set off an hours-long manhunt as frightened students hid in classrooms and cars. Police said early Tuesday that the shooter eventually killed himself. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., addresses the media, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, in East Lansing, Mich. A gunman killed several people and wounded others at Michigan State University. The shooting set off an hours-long manhunt as frightened students hid in classrooms and cars. Police said early Tuesday that the shooter eventually killed himself. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

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President Joe Biden pledged his support during a phone call, she said.

“We mourn the loss of beautiful souls and pray for those continuing to fight for their lives. … Another place that is supposed to be about community and togetherness shattered by bullets and bloodshed,” Whitmer said.

Michigan State has about 50,000 students, including 19,000 who live on campus. As hundreds of officers scoured the East Lansing campus, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northwest of Detroit, students hid where they could Monday night.

During that time, police released a photo of the suspect, and an “alert citizen” recognized him in the Lansing area, Rozman said.

“That was exactly what we were trying to achieve by releasing that picture. We had no idea where he was at that point,” Rozman said.

Police confronted McRae about 5 miles from campus in an industrial area, where he killed himself, Rozman said.

McRae was on probation for 18 months until May 2021 for possessing a loaded, concealed gun without a permit, according to the state Corrections Department.

Dominik Molotky said he was learning about Cuban history around 8:15 p.m. when he and the other students heard a gunshot outside the classroom. He told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that a few seconds later, the gunman entered and fired three to four more rounds while the students took cover.

“I was ducking and covering, and the same with the rest of the students. He let off four more rounds and when it went silent for about 30 seconds to a minute, two of my classmates started breaking open a window, and that took about 30 seconds to happen. There was glass everywhere,” Molotky said.

“After that, we broke out the window and I climbed out of there, and then I booked it back to my apartment,” he said. He was unsure whether gunfire hit any of the students.

Claire Papoulias, a sophomore, described on NBC’s “Today” how she and other students scrambled to escape a history class out a window after the gunman entered through a back door and began firing.

“There was a boy in my class, and he was waiting outside the window, and he was catching people and helping people down,” she said. “As soon as I fell out of the window I kind of hit the ground a little. I just grabbed my backpack and my phone, and I remember I just ran for my life.”

Ryan Kunkel, 22, was attending a class in the Engineering Building when he became aware of the shooting from a university email. Kunkel and about 13 other students turned off the lights and acted like there “was a shooter right outside the door,” he said.

“Nothing came out of anyone’s mouth” for over four hours, he said.

Ted Zimbo said he was walking to his dorm when he encountered a woman with a “ton of blood on her.”

“She told me, ‘Someone came in our classroom and started shooting,’” Zimbo told The Associated Press. “Her hands were completely covered in blood. It was on her pants and her shoes. She said, ‘It’s my friend’s blood.’”

Zimbo said the woman left to find a friend’s car while he returned to his SUV and threw a blanket over himself to hide for three hours.

All classes, sports and other activities were canceled for 48 hours.

Interim university President Teresa Woodruff said it would be a time “to think and grieve and come together.”

“This Spartan community — this family — will come back together,” Woodruff said.

The shooting came a day before the fifth anniversary of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting that killed 17 and is the latest in what has become a deadly new year in the U.S.

Dozens of people have died in mass shootings so far in 2023, most notably in California, where 11 people were killed as they welcomed the Lunar New Year at a dance hall popular with older Asian Americans.

In 2022, there were more than 600 mass shootings in the U.S. in which at least four people were killed or wounded, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Kusmer reported from Indianapolis. Associated Press writers Ed White and Corey Williams in Detroit contributed to this report.

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