Gunman at Illinois College Kills 5 Students, Wounds 16

Dekalb, Illinois
By Peter Slevin and Kari Lydersen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, February 15, 2008

DEKALB, Ill., Feb. 14 -- Without saying a word, a gunman dressed in black opened fire in a Northern Illinois University geology class Thursday, killing five students and wounding 16. He fired at random, authorities said, until the moment he killed himself.

Students screamed and crawled on their bellies to escape the auditorium in Cole Hall as bullets and buckshot flew. The gunman, a former graduate student in sociology, carried a shotgun and two handguns. Police said he volunteered no motive before he died.

"It started and it stopped very, very quickly," the university's police chief, Donald Grady, said. "This thing started and ended in a matter of seconds."

Although the gunman carried identification from another college in the state, Northern Illinois President John G. Peters declined to identify him or the four women and one man who died. Four other students remained in critical condition at local hospitals. The class instructor, a graduate student, was wounded but is expected to recover, officials said.

Late Thursday, with state troopers stationed at all campus entrances, administrators said they were confident that Cole Hall was the sole crime scene. They dismissed the suggestion that the shooting was connected to an incident of threatening graffiti that closed the campus, located 65 miles west of Chicago, in December.

Amid scenes that echoed the April 2007 assault at Virginia Tech by a student who left 32 people dead, Northern Illinois authorities said campus police were on the scene within three minutes. Within about 20 minutes, the school sent e-mail alerts instructing the university community to "get to a safe area and take precautions."

The all-clear was issued at 4:14 p.m. Central time.

"This is a tragedy, but from all indications we did everything we could when we found out," Peters said. "We've put in place so many security measures, and we're reviewing them all the time. Unless you locked every door, I don't know how you really keep people out. I don't know of any plan that can prevent this kind of tragedy."

After the Virginia Tech killings, which took place in two campus locations, a state review panel criticized university administrators for not taking quicker action in shutting down the campus, saying it might have reduced casualties.

Peters announced that classes and activities would be canceled at the 25,000-student university on Friday. He urged people to stay away from campus for now, although the dormitories remain open.

The gunman emerged at about 3 p.m. from an entrance at the front of a large lecture hall near the end of a 75-minute introductory geology class, according to the university's account. He carried a shotgun and two pistols, one of them a Glock.

He began firing.

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