Chicago, IL -
At least six people are dead and up to 21 others injured in a shooting rampage at Northern Illinois University on Valentine's Day. A gunman opened fire in a lecture hall on the NIU campus this afternoon, spraying a class full of students with bullets before taking his own life. The NIU shooting follows a string of mass shootings in schools, churches and other public venues in recent months.
NIU Police Chief Donald Grady said witnesses saw a man dressed in black enter the stage of an auditorium in Cole Hall carrying gun. The man turned the gun on students seated in the lecture hall and began firing rapidly. About 90 students were present in the hall for an introductory ocean sciences class when the shooting began around 3 p.m., according to United Press International.
As bullets rang through the lecture hall, students began screaming and trying to run or crawl away. Witnesses told police they believed as many as 20 or more shots were fired. "He just started shooting at all the kids," Jillian Martinez, a freshman at the university told the Chicago Tribune. "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."
After riddling the room with bullets, the man turned the gun on himself, firing one fatal shot.
Four people reportedly died on the scene, including the gunman. Two others died later at the Kishwaukee hospital. Four of the dead victims have been reported as women and one man also died, along with the male gunman. All of the victims killed in the attack were students at the university. The as yet unidentified attacker was not believed to be a student at NIU. One of those shot in the attack was the graduate student leading the class, according to the New York Times. Sixteen others were injured in the shooting, two critically.
Minutes after the shooting began, the university activated a campus-wide security plan created in case of such a happening. Police officials and emergency crews swarmed to the scene of the shooting as the campus was locked down. Police reported that the gunman was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and was carrying a Glock pistol and a shotgun.
"This is a tragedy," NIU President John G. Peters said at a press conference Thursday afternoon, "But from all indications we did everything we could when we found out."
NIU cancelled classes for the rest of the evening and plans to stay closed on Friday. Authorities say the university was closed in December for one day when graffiti was discovered on campus referring to the Virginia Tech shooting that left 32 dead and many others injured in April of last year.
The tragic shooting spree was only the most recent in a string of similar mass shootings in universities, churches and other public venues over the past few months. Last week, a woman killed two students at the Louisiana Technical College in Baton Rouge before killing herself.