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Stephen Phillip KAZMIERCZAK





Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: School shooting
Number of victims: 5
Date of murders: February 14, 2008
Date of birth: August 26, 1980
Victims profile: Catalina Garcia, 20 / Julianna Gehant, 32 / Ryanne Mace, 19 / Gayle Dubowski, 20 / Daniel Parmenter, 20 (students)
Method of murder: Shooting with a Remington 870 shotgun and three handguns (a 9mm Glock, a 9mm Sig Sauer, and a .380 Hi-Point)
Location: Delkab, Illinois, USA
Status: Died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound during this shooting event

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the shooting



Stephen P. Kazmierczak, described by police as a 27-year-old former sociology student at Northern Illinois University, opened fire on students in a lecture hall before turning the gun on himself on Feb. 14, 2008.


The Northern Illinois University shooting was a school shooting that took place on February 14, 2008, during which Steven Kazmierczak 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 six people, all residents of Illinois, were killed in the incident:

  • Catalina Garcia, 20 — Cicero

  • Julianna Gehant, 32 — Mendota

  • Ryanne Mace, 19 — Carpentersville

  • Gayle Dubowski, 20 — Carol Stream

  • Daniel Parmenter, 20 — Elmhurst

  • Steven Kazmierczak, 27 — Champaign (perpetrator)


A total of eighteen people survived the incident with injuries. Like those killed, all were from Illinois:

  • Amanda Benoit, 20 — Kankakee

  • Nicole Berns, — DeKalb

  • Troy Chamberlain, 19 — Sycamore

  • Lauren Debrauwere, 19 — Lake Barrington

  • Samantha Dehner, 20 — Carol Stream

  • J.D. Donohue, 19 — Rolling Meadows

  • Ryne Erickson, 20 — Des Plaines

  • Brian Karpes, 27 — Rolling Meadows

  • Patrick Korellis, 22 — Lindenhurst

  • Jeff Malina — Glenview

  • Harold Ng, 21 — Mundelein

  • Joseph Peterson, 26 — DeKalb (course instructor)

  • Unnum Rahman, 19 — Plainfield

  • Maria Ruiz Santana, 19 — Elgin

  • Jerry Santoni, 22 — Frankfort

  • Jeremy Walker, 20 — Caledonia

  • Sherman Yau, 20 — Naperville


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 Gehrig’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 10 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.

According to a report published by the United States Fire Administration, Kazmierczak is believed to have studied Cho's actions and used a similar MO.


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.

Vigils and memorial services

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.

Condolences and tributes

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 Guillén 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. Jon Bon Jovi offered his condolonces in a Billboard magazine article, after his band Bon Jovi was forced to cancel rehearsals slated to begin on February 14, 2008 at the NIU Convocation Center in preparation for the North American leg of the Lost Highway Tour.

Future of Cole Hall

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.

Memorial Garden and Sculpture

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.

Earlier incident and possible threats

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.


NIU gunman identified

Chicago Tribune

February 15 2008

A gunman accused of killing five students in a Northern Illinois University classroom Thursday had stopped taking medication two weeks ago "and became somewhat erratic," campus police said Friday.

At the same time, officials corrected an earlier statement that six other people besides the gunman had died, saying there had been a "miscommunication."

The gunman was identified as Stephen P. Kazmierczak, a former NIU student, who took his own life. (The spelling of Kazmierczak's first name was supplied by a university official. Other references list him as Steven.)

"There were no red flags," said campus Police Chief Donald Grady, saying that Kazmierczak was someone "revered by faculty and students alike."

Kazmierczak's motive is a mystery, he said. Grady refused to discuss what medication Kazmierczak was taking or anything about his medical condition.

He said Kazmierczak brought four weapons—a shotgun and three handguns—with him when he kicked open a door to the classroom and began firing. Police found 48 shell casings and six shotgun shells in the classroom, indicating the number of shots, he said.

Authorities have traced the shotgun and one of the handguns to a gun dealer in Champaign, where Kazmierczak was attending graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They said the purchases were legal, and there was no reason that Kazmierczak should have been denied purchase. Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are tracing the other two weapons, said agent Kevin Cronin.

Earlier, the DeKalb County coroner's office had issued a news release saying that a sixth wounded student had died overnight, but university officials retracted that, saying there had been a miscommunication and that only five students and the gunman had died.

The dead students were identified as: Daniel Parmenter, 20, of Westchester; Catalina Garcia, 20, of Cicero; Ryanne Mace, 19, of Carpentersville; Julianna Gehant, 32, of Meriden; and Gayle Dubowski, 20, of Carol Stream.

Before the Friday morning news conference at which Kazmierczak was identified, NIU President John G. Peters said "the shooter had a very good academic record, no record of trouble."

Kazmierczak was not a current student at the school 65 miles west of downtown Chicago, authorities said. Peters earlier had said the man had been enrolled as a sociology graduate student at NIU but left school last spring.

In an interview at his home near campus Friday morning, a visibly rattled Joseph Peterson, the instructor of the ocean science class on which the gunman opened fire, said he did not know the man and had no idea why he targeted his classroom.

In Lakeland, Fla., local sheriff's police were interviewing Kazmierczak's father, Robert, at the request of investigators in DeKalb, but would not release details.

Speaking briefly with reporters at his home about 50 miles southwest of Orlando, Robert Kazmierczak, 66, who is retired, said: "Please leave me alone. I have no statement to make. This is a very hard time. I'm a diabetic."

Then he broke down crying and went back inside his mobile home. Records indicate his wife died in 2006.

Officials said Kazmierczak, dressed in black, stormed into an oceanography class Thursday afternoon and opened fire with a shotgun and two handguns. In a matter of seconds, he killed five and wounded 15.

Then, still on stage, he killed himself, authorities said.

Late Thursday, sources confirmed that the gunman was a graduate student in social work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

A law-enforcement source said the gunman was found with a U. of I. identification card in his pocket. Police also said they were unable to determine a motive for the shooting, which erupted shortly before 3 p.m., about 15 minutes before the class of about 100 students in Cole Hall was scheduled to end.

NIU classes have been canceled indefinitely. The dorms, however, remain open. "It's not a lockdown," NIU's Peters told reporters Friday morning.

It was the worst campus shooting since April 16, 2007, when 32 people were shot to death on the campus of Virginia Tech University by a student who later killed himself. Virginia Tech officials have called NIU offering help and advice, Peters said.

Eyewitnesses described hearing a door to the right rear of the stage slam open and seeing the gunman, wearing a knit cap and sweat shirt, wielding a shotgun. He stayed within 10 feet of the door and started shooting—first with the shotgun and then with the handguns.

"He stood there for a second, looked and then just started shooting," said Meghan Murphy, 22, a junior from Western Springs, a student in the class. "His face was blank, like he wasn't a person. He was a statue, aiming."

Instructor Peterson, who was giving a PowerPoint presentation, ducked and was shot in the arm.

Junior John Giovanni, 20, of Des Plaines and others said the gunman aimed at the center of the auditorium.

"He just fires right into the audience," Giovanni said. "He didn't say a word. It didn't look like he was aiming directly at someone. I think he was trying to hit as many people as he could."

The blast was deafening, Giovanni said. Chaos erupted, with students dropping to the floor and crawling, running and shoving their way to the doors behind the rear seats, eyewitnesses said. Giovanni said he ran out of one of his shoes.

Half the class bolted for the doors; the rest cowered on the floor and attempted to hide under their seats or under desks, said Loren Weese, 18, a freshman from Schiller Park who was seated on the aisle about halfway up the auditorium.

"A lot of people fell," she said. "I don't know if they did that on purpose to avoid being shot. I remember stepping over them. I didn't talk to anybody."

Parmenter was a sophomore finance major who worked at the school newspaper, the Northern Star. A graduate of York Community High School, Parmenter played rugby and was hoping to intern at the Chicago Board of Trade this summer. A couple of weeks ago, he persuaded fellow members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity to donate time playing bingo. Friends said he was from Elmhurst, but the DeKalb County coroner said his most recent address was in Westchester.

He was sitting in the first row with his girlfriend when he was shot in the head. She was injured.

NIU Police Chief Donald Grady said the department received a 911 call from inside the auditorium at 3:06 p.m. Police arrived 29 seconds later and found the gunman dead, Grady said. Students "were running through any door they could find to get out," he said.

After notifying the campus via the university Web site at 3:20 p.m. about a "possible gunman on campus," many students, teachers and staff were told to stay in place or "get to a safe area and take precautions until given the all clear."

Within minutes, the campus and DeKalb, a town of about 40,000, was a logjam of traffic; people trying to flee and others flocking to the scene.

Stuck in traffic as she neared DeKalb from her Park Ridge home, Carolyn DeSantis' anxiety about her son, Michael, a freshman, rose with each passing minute.

"I was just freaking out," DeSantis said. "I called him every five minutes to see if he was OK."

In the half-circle drive in front of Lincoln Hall, cars and mini-vans queued, and students filed out of the building with backpacks, duffel bags and laundry baskets.

As he waited for his daughter, Janae Morgan, 19, to come down to the mini-van from her dorm room, Darrin Robinson of Chicago pondered whether Thursday's shooting was related to the racist threats that were scrawled on a bathroom wall last fall.

"I just want them to take care of the problem," he said.

The shooting rattled students and locals alike.

"I think everyone is numb and kind of out of it. This just doesn't happen in DeKalb," said Rosa Balli, 47, owner of Eduardo's Mexican Restaurant.

Jillian Teegarden, 22, of St. Charles, a hostess at the restaurant, spent the afternoon calling friends to check on their well-being. She estimated she made 100 telephone calls.

"I'm just so scared to death that I'm going to hear someone's name that I haven't gotten a hold of," she said.

Others pondered how close they came to death.

Ethan Gill of Sun Prairie, Wis., was wandering the halls of Cole looking for an exam he was supposed to take. He had poked his head into the lecture hall where the shooting took place about five minutes before the gunman arrived. He left to check on the location for the exam and was about to re-enter the hall when he heard a shot ring out inside.

"What if I was off by another 30 seconds or so, would he have shot me?" Gill said.

The shooting, which occurred near the center of the NIU campus, took place 10 months after a student gunman at Virginia Tech killed 32 people and himself in the worst shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.

Armed with two handguns, the gunman killed two students in a dorm before storming a classroom building, chaining the doors behind him and shooting students and professors in German and engineering classrooms.

It was later revealed that the gunman had been referred to counseling after a professor became disturbed about his creative writing, and he was ordered to a psychiatric hospital because of concern he was suicidal.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich was on the NIU campus Friday to personally express his condolences to the university community.

"Yesterday's shooting was a tragic, senseless and horrific event. At an institution devoted to learning, we've seen a terrible act of unthinkable evil," Blagojevich said at a Friday afternoon news conference.

"If there was a way for this tragedy to be anticipated and stopped beforehand, we will find it. And we will work with the larger education community to keep them up-to-date as they review their own safety rules."

On Dec. 10, NIU closed its campus after a racial slur and a reference to the Virginia Tech shootings were found written on a bathroom wall inside a residence hall. Administrators reopened the following day after authorities said the anonymous message no longer represented "an imminent threat to students, faculty or staff."

On Thursday, NIU President Peters dismissed any connection between the graffiti and Thursday's shooting. University administrators said the school imposed new safety measures after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and upgraded those measures after the Virginia Tech shooting.

On Friday, State Police Director Larry Trent discussed legislation aimed at requiring public and private mental health institutions to report names of patients to the Illinois Department of Human Services. He said names reported to the department are checked against the state police database. If any of those patients are found to have Firearm Owner's Identification Cards, (FOID) the gun license is revoked, according to Master Sgt. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois State Police spokesman. Gutierrez also said police seize the guns, if necessary.

Public institutions for years have been reporting patient names to the Department of Human Services, Trent said, but the legislation requiring public and private institutions to do so will take effect June 1.

Kazmierczak obtained a FOID card in January 2007. Had he been undergoing treatment at a private hospital, the hospital would not have not released his name to Human Services to be checked against FOID holders.


'I was prepared for that to be my last moment'

Attacker fired wordlessly into a mass of students

About 15 minutes were left in Geology 104: Introduction to Ocean Science, and junior Dan Sweeney was checking the time when the door beneath the lecture hall's clock flew open.

In strode a thin young man dressed in black, a dark knit cap atop his head, a shotgun in his hands.

Time stopped. There was no fear, no panic in the half-full room—only an icy moment of bewilderment.

"Nothing seemed out of place," said junior Doug Quesnel, 22. "It was weird he walked through there, but nothing seemed wrong until the shots went off."

Many who witnessed the rain of gunfire in Cole Hall told a common tale: A tranquil afternoon of class was brought to a bloody end by a gunman who appeared suddenly and fired wordlessly into the mass of students.

Five people died along with the shooter, who took his own life seconds after opening fire, police said. Those who survived were left with searing memories of an instant when the unthinkable became real.

"It was just surreal," said Sweeney, 22. "Even when the first shot was fired I couldn't believe it was happening. It didn't seem to register with anyone."

The topic of the day was the properties of the ocean floor, and as always, instructor Joseph Peterson was doing his best to keep his 100-plus students engaged.

He was standing on a stage at the front of the 300-seat auditorium, clicking through a PowerPoint presentation, when a side door on the stage opened with a violent tug.

The face of the young man who entered was void of expression. There was a baffling, agonizing pause. Then he started shooting.

"It didn't even sound like I thought a gun would sound like," said Desiree Smith, a senior from Bolingbrook studying journalism. "It sounded like a cork coming out of a champagne bottle."

The gunfire threw the room into screaming chaos.

"I dropped to the ground under my seat, and could see another girl down there," Smith said. "We just stared at each other. I grabbed her leg and was squeezing it for about five seconds. Then we moved all of a sudden. Everyone was army-crawling toward the back of the auditorium on the floor."

"As soon as I reached the door, I got halfway hunched over, and then started to run as soon as I got outside. I just ran. Everything went quiet around me and I felt I wasn't running fast enough. I remember thinking, 'He's gonna shoot me, he's gonna shoot me.' "

The aisles leading to the exit were choked with a mad scramble. Some students fell to the floor and were stepped on, while others tried to hurdle the crush.

"I was prepared for one of the bullets to hit me in the back," said junior Shane Pope, 21, who was sitting toward the back. "I was prepared for that to be my last moment."

Harold Ng, 21, a junior in communications, said the danger didn't register even after the firing started .

"I was still in the dream state and I didn't think it was reality. It was like a video game," he said.

It wasn't until the other students in the class began to run in a panic that he too began to run, leaving his book bag and jacket on the floor of the auditorium as he fled. While running, he was shot in the back of the head.

"I didn't feel any pain or anything," he said. "I just swiped the back of my head with my hand, and then when I looked at my hand it was all bloody."

He ran into neighboring Neptune Hall, where other students noticed his wounds and helped him.

The ambulance came in a short time and they were fast about it," he said. "I have three pellets in my head, but they said I'd be OK."

John Giovanni, 20, of Des Plaines left his notebook and iPod behind as he bolted for the doors in a crouch, thinking to himself that a moving target would be harder to hit.

"I was pushing through people," he said. "You need to get out. You never know how good of a marksman he is. . . . My goal was getting out there and running as far as I could to be safe."

Outside the building, the students scattered. Some slipped on the ice. Blood was everywhere.

Jillian Martinez, a freshman from Carpentersville, said she saw the gunman enter the auditorium from a side door near the teacher's lectern at the front of the room.

"All I saw was the flash of shooting," she continued. "He pulled out his gun. He just started shooting at all the kids. He just started shooting at people, and I ran out of there as fast as I could. I ran all the way to the student center; when I got there I could still hear shooting [from the classroom]."

As the victims fled across campus, the panic of the lecture hall began to spread.

"Everything was crazy," said sophomore Ryan Toms, 20, of Rockford, who was trying to drive out of a parking lot near Cole Hall. "There were people running down the roads trying to get away, and the roads were just jampacked with cars trying to get out, and so many police cars and ambulances and firetrucks trying to get in and there's people in the way."

Students holed up in their dorm rooms and apartments, some staying well after the university said the crisis was over. Parents streamed into the campus to pick up their children, and some weren't so sure they would return.

Smith, the Bolingbrook senior, reached a nearby campus building and called her parents and boyfriend. She was then told to go to an auditorium for questioning with the rest of the students from the classroom where the shooting occurred.

There, she ran into the girl she had locked eyes with under the seats of the classroom.

"We ran to each other and hugged; I told her I kept thinking of her and wondering if you were OK," Smith said. "She said she kept thinking of me and that she remembered my face and remembered me grabbing on to her."

Smith said that the class' teacher, Peterson, was also in the auditorium, despite being apparently wounded in the arm by the shooter.

"We were all relieved to see he was OK," Smith said. "I lost it and started crying then, I could see the horror and shock in his face."

Desiree Smith said she had been feeling uneasy about campus security ever since last year's Virginia Tech massacre, saying many classroom doors didn't lock. Now, after the worst has happened, she said it would be hard to return to any sense of normalcy.

"I think it's going to be really hard for me and a lot of people. It's going to be hard to be back in that room, now that this has happened. . . . I don't understand why someone has to go into a room of people they've never met and feel like they need to harm them."



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