Michigan State set to resume classes after fatal shootings

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State University professor Marco Díaz-Muñoz is still haunted by what he witnessed last Monday night, when a gunman entered his classroom in Berkey Hall, killing two of his students in what he describes as “12 minutes of terror.”

“Those images haunt me. The images of those two girls,” Díaz-Muñoz told The Associated Press.

Arielle Anderson and Alexandria Verner, both juniors, would die that night, Feb. 13. The gunman would shoot six more students during the rampage in two campus buildings. Brian Fraser also would die. Five others would suffer critical gunshot wounds.

Classes are resuming Monday at the 50,000-student university, though Berkey Hall, an academic building, will not reopen. Officials said Sunday that swiftly resuming classes makes sense for the 2 1/2-month balance of the spring term.

“Coming back together is something that will help us,” said Thomas Jeitschko, executive vice president for academic affairs, adding that faculty will have extensive flexibility in how they run their courses.

“We know that everybody heals at their own pace and in their own manner. Getting it exactly right will not be possible,” Jeitschko said at a news conference Sunday. “Coming back into spaces that are familiar, interacting with people who are familiar, is helpful in the process of healing and grieving.”

Díaz-Muñoz said the university had offered to have another professor teach through the end of the semester.

“On one hand, I want to forget it all. But then on the other hand, I think I need to help my students pick up the pieces,” Díaz-Muñoz said. “I think I need to help my students build a sense of meaning. It’s not going to be the same as before, but there has to be something good out of it.”

Some in the community, however, aren’t ready. The editorial board of The State News, the student newspaper, wrote Thursday that they wouldn’t immediately attend classes, saying more time was needed to heal.

Jo Kovach, president of student government, said “students are scared” and will need “flexibility, empathy and options” from their professors.

Following the shooting, parents arrived from all over the state to bring students home, at least for the rest of last week. A petition demanding hybrid or online options for students received more than 20,000 signatures by Saturday.

Jeitschko said students will have weeks to decide whether to take a regular grade or a credit/no credit option, which would not affect their overall grade-point average.

“Let the semester play out. Come back. Try to heal,” he said.

Díaz-Muñoz understands that some students won’t be ready to return, saying that some will still have “the fear of looking over their shoulder and looking out the window, at the doors.”

“There are some kids in my class that are graduating this semester. And they need this horrific nightmare to have a better ending than the way it ended on Monday,” Díaz-Muñoz said.

Sparrow Hospital said three wounded students remained in critical condition Sunday while one was upgraded to fair and another was listed in serious but stable condition. Interim university President Teresa Woodruff said Michigan State would cover funeral costs and hospital expenses.

Dozens of people have died in mass shootings so far in 2023. In 2022, there were more than 600 mass shootings in the U.S. in which at least four people were killed or injured, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

The shots broke out at Michigan State on Monday during evening classes at Berkey Hall and nearby at the MSU Union, a social hub where students can study, eat and relax. Students across the vast campus were ordered to shelter in place for four hours — “run, hide, fight” if necessary — while police hunted for Anthony McRae, 43, who eventually killed himself when confronted by police not far from his home in Lansing.

Police said McRae’s mental health could have been a factor, based on a note found on him. He was the lone shooter and had no connection to the victims or to Michigan State as a student or employee, they said.

Díaz-Muñoz describes hearing “explosions” outside his class before a masked man appeared in the doorway of Room 114 and opened fire. Students hid behind desks and chairs before breaking windows to escape.

After “one to two minutes” of shooting, the gunman turned around and left, leaving behind “destruction and death in my classroom,” said Díaz-Muñoz.

For Díaz-Muñoz, the terror didn’t end as abruptly. The carnage in his classroom was “something you saw in a movie,” he said.

Díaz-Muñoz says he has taken prescription medication as a way to force himself to sleep, only emerging from his room “for a bowl of soup.”

The assistant professor said that he is sharing his story in hopes of bringing about gun reform.

“If the lawmakers and the senators saw what I saw, instead of hearing in the news one more statistic. If they had seen those girls and the pools of blood that I saw, the horror we lived, they would be shamed into action,” Díaz-Muñoz said.

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Associated Press reporter Ed White in Detroit contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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