Chicago, IL -
A 27-year-old former student has been identified as the shooter who opened fire on a class at Northern Illinois University on Thursday, killing five people and wounding over a dozen others before taking his own life. Stephen Kazmierczak was a former graduate student at NIU and had recently stopped taking medication for an unspecified psychiatric condition.
Kazmierczak went on a shooting rampage on Thursday at a lecture hall on the Northern Illinois University Campus, shooting 21 people before turning a gun on himself. All the victims were students at the university attending a geology class. Five people were killed by the gunman; he also died at the scene.
All of the fatal victims of the attack have now been identified: 20-year-old Daniel Parmenter, 20-year-old Catalina Garcia, 19-year-old Ryanne Mace, 20-year-old Gayle Dubowski and 32-year-old Julianna Gehant.
NIU Police Chief Donald Grady said friends of Kazmierczak told police he had been taking medication but had recently stopped and become "somewhat erratic," according to CNN.com. Grady did not specify what kind of medication Kazmierczak was taking or the exact condition being treated by it.
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 to 30 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.
Kazmierczak was identified as a former graduate student of Northern Illinois University, according to CNN.com. He later transferred to the Uiversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, according to the Chicago Tribune. Kazmierczak was reportedly an "outstanding student" and was honored by NIU two years ago for research on the U.S. prison system.
"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 Thursday and Friday after the tragic incident. 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.
Written By Ann Turner