NEWS

Illinois Campus Shooting Tests Security Plan--Also, Shooter Off Meds But Had No Prior Police Contact

By Laura Spadanuta, Assistant Editor

A gunman opened fire with a shotgun in a classroom at Northern Illinois University yesterday, shooting several students, six fatally, before killing himself.  The man had been a graduate student at the school in 2007, although he was no longer enrolled there, reports the New York Times.

The university officials activated a detailed security plan after receiving word of the shooting. The school's response included Web updates, a lockdown, and e-mails.  However, the New York Times also reports that students heard about the shooting more quickly from text messages from friends.  The school's Web site had information up about 20 minutes after the shooting and the school reportedly also sent out e-mail warnings at that time, however, a student interviewed by the Times did not receive that e-mail for more than an hour after the shooting began. 

The response wasn't as effective as senior Christian Crum would have liked. He said he also got word of the shooting via student-to-student text messages. ''But I never got a text message from the university,'' he said.

Many schools have started using text message alert systems since the Virginia Tech shootings last year, although it does not appear from news reports that Northern Illinois employs such a system.  Although Crum was not satisfied, instructor Michael Gentile thought the school's response, including the fact that the school was locked down within 20 minutes of the shooting, "was as good as any institution could be when somebody decides to shoot up a classroom.''

UPDATE : It has also been separately reported on CNN that the shooter "was 'an outstanding student'  who reportedly stopped taking medication recently and became 'somewhat erratic,' the university's police chief said Friday.

CNN also reports that the chief saw no red flags: "He said investigators had not determined a motive and are not aware of any relationships the gunman may have had with anyone in the class where the shooting occurred. Nor did Kazmierczak have any previous contact with police, Grady said."

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