‘Punch in the gut’: Tri-campus community unsettled by MSU shooting
Meghan Lange | Monday, February 20, 2023
Editor’s Note: This story includes discussion of gun violence on a college campus.
Last Monday night, students at Michigan State University received their first emergency alert stating, “MSU Police report shots fired incident occurring on or near the East Lansing campus, Secure-in Place immediately. Run, Hide, Fight,” according to the Michigan State University Police official website.
The alert continued on by defining the statement “Run, Hide, Fight.” “Run means evacuate away from danger if you can do so safely, Hide means to secure-in-place and Fight means protect yourself if no other option.”
This alert would be the one of six that students would receive throughout the night of Feb. 13 and the early morning of Feb. 14, keeping them up to date on the current active shooter situation on their campus.
A little over two hours away from the shooting on MSU’s campus, students at both Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College found themselves immediately worried about those they knew near MSU and later, about their own safety on the tri-campus.
MSU shooting timeline
Though some information about the shooting remains unknown, the Michigan State University Department of Police and Public Safety (MSU DPPS) released the basic information in a Feb. 14 News Release.
On the night of Monday, Feb. 13 at around 8:18 p.m., the MSU DPPS received the first call reporting an active shooter at Berkey Hall, which is the home of the MSU College of Social Science, the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research and the Department of Sociology.
A shelter-in-place order was put into immediate action after the call, followed by the aforementioned “secure-in-place” alert which was sent to all members of the MSU community through the MSU Alert system.
While officers were deciphering the Berkey Hall scene, they received reports of additional shots fired at the MSU Union Building, which is used by students as a place to gather together to work or hangout, similar to the Notre Dame Duncan Student Center.
At approximately 11 p.m., the suspected shooter was seen on campus security cameras and their photo was distributed throughout MSU DPPS social media channels and through public media partners by 11:18 p.m.
The suspect was located on campus only 17 minutes after the distribution of the photos to the public.
At approximately 11:35 p.m. the suspected shooter, later identified as 43-year-old Anthony Dwayne McRae, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
At 12:27 a.m. on Tuesday Feb. 14, a final alert is sent out to the MSU community notifying them that the shelter-in-place order had been lifted, because the suspect was located.
Later that Tuesday, the victims were identified as juniors Arielle Anderson and Alexandria Verner and sophomore Brian Fraser. Five other unnamed students were critically injured and taken to the hospital.
So far, the MSU shooting has not been categorized as a “mass shooting” by research centers. According to The Violence Project, a nonprofit and nonpartisan research center dedicated to public criminology and data-driven violence prevention, the tragic deaths at MSU do not fall within their definition of a mass shooting.
The Violence Project defines a “mass shooting” as a one in which four or more people are murdered in a public single incident. Based on this definition, The Violence Project Database has identified nine mass shootings in or around college or university settings since 1966. This does not include the shooting in 2010 at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, the University of North Carolina shooting which took place in 2019 and the most recent Michigan State University shooting.
Currently, no federal government agency is tracking all U.S. college and university shootings in real time, which is why databases like The Violence Project are used to collect and analyze data in hopes of understanding the causes and effects of these deadly events.
What makes the MSU shooting unique, according to the database, is that the shooter had no known connection to the University. In all other college or university shootings, the identified shooter had a connection to either the people or the school they attacked.
Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s respond to MSU shooting
On Feb. 14, Father Jenkins released a statement stating that the Notre Dame community’s thoughts and prayers are with the Michigan State University community.
“To the victims of this violence, as well as the many friends and colleagues we have at Michigan State, the prayers and support of the Notre Dame community are with you,” his statement said.
Also on Feb. 14, the Saint Mary’s College official Instagram account posted a statement to their page praying for the healing of the survivors and strength for the families and friends of the victims.
“We pray for physical healing for the survivors and strength for the families and friends of those who lost their lives in this unnecessary tragedy,” the post said.
Saint Mary’s students also received emails from Student Affairs and Campus Ministry on Feb. 14 making them aware of support systems available. Campus security also stated the steps they would take in case of a similar emergency event.
Students react to MSU shooting
Due to the proximity of the tri-campus to Michigan State University in East Lansing, many students have a connection to the University through friends or family. Notre Dame sophomore Olivia Seymour is originally from Traverse City, Michigan, and has many friends that now attend MSU.
“One of my good friends literally just dropped out of MSU over winter break,” she said. “But the shooter was right next to her old dorm, the dorm she would have been in, and all her friends were still in there.”
Seymour went on to describe the feeling of knowing the people you care about are in danger and there is nothing that you can do.
“It was really terrifying,” she continued. “You never know, you never think it’s going to happen to the people that you love until it happens and it’s never been this close before … These people that I’ve known for a long time and I know their families, I was thinking about their mothers,” she said.
Seymour continued, saying, “It being so close to here is really terrifying, just because it feels like it keeps getting closer and closer … and that’s really the punch in the gut.”
Carstyn Barna is a senior at Saint Mary’s and also has several friends that attend MSU.
“My friend was heading to the gym and walked right past the building where the shooting was only like minutes before,” she said. “When he got to the gym, he and some other people heard the shots and barricaded the doors and themselves in the gym,” she explained. “It was just really scary to hear.”
When The Observer asked Barna and Seymour if they felt safe on campus, they both said some changes could be made to make both campuses safer.
“Overall I feel pretty safe walking alone at night, but I’ve gotten more aware now, for the most part, I do feel safe, but of course you can’t prevent everything. There are a lot of people that come onto this campus just for visits,” Seymour said.
Seymour went on to discuss her desire for more emergency phones on campus.
“I do wish there were more of the emergency phones, I think there are some on the outskirts, but I do wish they were placed a bit more centrally on campus,” she said.
Similarly, Barna spoke about the lack of light on the Saint Mary’s campus.
“I feel like some of the areas on campus are really dark, there’s not enough lights at night. For my nighttime classes, I normally drive to class, because you just don’t know,” she said.
Notre Dame sophomore Amelia Jaworski went to high school with several people who now attend MSU. Many of her family members also went to MSU, including her parents and a cousin who is currently a senior there.
“Luckily my cousin was home at the time but my friends who live on campus, they were just terrified and in shock,” she said. “They were physically safe, but I’m sure it’s taken a mental toll on them because it’s traumatizing, regardless of if you were directly affected or not.”
When asked how she felt about the fact that the shooting happened so close, Jaworski said, “I think it’s really scary, considering it’s only, what two and a half hours away or something. I think it was even more frightening and anxiety provoking for me considering that some of my extended family actually live in East Lansing.”
“The shooter was in several different areas of campus, so you never know, I never really knew what their next target would be … and my family was there,” she said.
When The Observer asked Jaworski if she was concerned about a shooting happening on the tri-campus she said, “I think it’s concerning for all students in general, whether or not they know somebody directly affected by the shooting. I think it’s even more concerning that the shootings are happening more and more frequently around us.”
She continued, “I feel like we hear things, I don’t want to say all the time now, but it’s almost not surprising when it shouldn’t be like that, even the fact that it seems to happen the most on college campuses, high schools or even elementary schools is really scary.”
She describes her concern that some students don’t feel safe on their campuses anymore.
“These shootings are happening more frequently, and it’s really concerning that students don’t even feel safe at a place where they should feel safe. College is four years of their life where it should be their home, but you should feel safe at home and a lot of students don’t,” she said.
When The Observer asked if there was anything Notre Dame could do to make her feel safer on campus, Jaworski said, “I think promoting the safety measures more, specifically what to do in scenarios like what happened at MSU would be really beneficial.”
From her perspective, simple demonstrations of safety and transparency would be welcome.
“I think even urging students to lock their doors at night or to just be more aware of their surroundings would be helpful and advocating for mental health awareness to support the students that were directly affected by this in one way or another. But also to be more open to communication with students who have concerns about their safety or feel like their safety is at risk,” she said.
News writer Emma Duffy contributed to this reporting.