On Monday, authorities revealed that the gunman who killed three Michigan State University students and wounded five others before committing suicide had a history of mental illness and had a note containing a threat against two New Jersey campuses.
The news of a possible New Jersey link to the suspect, 43-year-old Anthony Dwayne McRae, came as authorities searched for clues as to what drove him to open fire Monday evening on the MSU campus in East Lansing, Michigan, located around 100 miles west of Detroit.
McRae, who resided in the neighbouring state capital of Lansing, Michigan, had no known ties to the university or any of his victims, according to MSU police.
Chris Rozman, acting deputy head of MSU police, told reporters early Tuesday morning, hours after the shooting at an academic hall and an adjacent student union building, "We have no idea why he came to campus to do this," McRae's neighbour described him to Reuters as an "a real hell-raiser" who frequently shot his gun at home.
The shooting occurred at approximately 8:30 p.m. local time, and the entire school and adjacent neighbourhoods were placed on lockdown while police searched door-to-door for the shooter. The search concluded three hours later in Lansing, where McRae reportedly shot and killed himself.
It remained unclear whether the suspect was already dead when authorities caught up to him, based on a tip from the public after MSU police had posted two still photographs of the suspect from a surveillance camera.
The photographs depicted him entering a building and ascending stairs while wearing a jacket, a baseball cap, and a black mask over his lower face. He appeared to be clutching a revolver in one hand, although officials have not identified the type of weapon.
New Jersey ties
Among the evidence surfaced on Tuesday, authorities in Ewing, New Jersey, claimed police had uncovered a note in the gunman's pocket that "indicated a threat" to two public schools in that Delaware River township.
The "investigation revealed that McRae had a history of mental health issues," Ewing Township police stated in a Facebook post, adding that McRae had ties to the Ewing community and that schools in the area were shuttered "out of an abundance of caution."
McRae's 85-year-old Lansing neighbour, speaking on the condition of anonymity, characterized him to Reuters as "a real hell-raiser" who frequently shot his gun on the land where he and his father resided.
The neighbour stated, "We'd hear the gunfire all the time, and then it seemed the cops were always down there for something,"
Michael McRae, the suspect's father, told The Washington Post that his son was jailed in 2019 for carrying a loaded pistol without a concealed weapons permit and later lied about having a gun in his house.
MSU stopped all classes and other activities for 48 hours as shocked students and staff mourned the victims of the latest outbreak of horrific gun violence in the United States.
"I will never forget the screams of my classmates because they were screaming in pain for help," student Claire Papoulias, sitting in her Cuban history class when the gunman walked in, told on NBC's "Today" show.
Papoulias reported falling to the ground when she heard gunfire immediately behind her head. "Someone was saying that there was a gunman and everybody needed to get down on the ground, and at that moment, I thought I was going to die. I was terrified," she stated.
The five injured students were listed in critical condition at E.W. Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, where four underwent surgery, Dr Denny Martin, the hospital's chief medical officer, stated while struggling to maintain his cool during the briefing.
Democratic U.S. Representative Elissa Slotkin, who represents the area in Congress, stated, "I am filled with rage that we have to have another press conference to talk about our children being killed in our schools," If this is not a wake-up call to take action, I do not know what is.
The shooting occurred roughly 30 miles south of Oxford, Michigan, where a teenage gunman in 2021 used a semi-automatic weapon his father bought as a Christmas present to kill four classmates at the local high school.
The shooting on Monday occurred one day before the fifth anniversary of the Valentine's Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed.
"Another location that should be about community and harmony has been broken by gunfire and bloodshed. "We recognize that this is a uniquely American problem," Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer stated during the briefing, saying that she had discussed the event with Vice President Joe Biden.
Alexandria Verner, a junior from Clawson, Michigan, Brian Fraser, a sophomore from Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and Arielle Anderson, a kid from Grosse Pointe, was identified by university police as the deceased students.
WXYZ-TV stated that Verner graduated from Clawson High School near Detroit in 2020, citing a letter from the district superintendent.
"She was a tremendous student, athlete, and leader and exemplified kindness every day of her life!" WXYZ-TV reports that Superintendent Billy Shellenbarger wrote to families. You would have liked her if you knew her.