FBI called in to help probe US campus shooting

February 16th, 2008 - 3:24 pm ICT by admin  

By Parveen Chopra
New York, Feb 16 (IANS) The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is assisting authorities investigate the shooting at Northern Illinois University (NIU) in which a gunman opened fire on a class of 150, killing six and injuring 15 before committing suicide. Though the shooter has been identified as Steven Phillip Kazmierczak, a 27-year-old former student of NIU at DeKalb, about 100 km from Chicago, no motive has been established.

The NIU Police, in charge of the probe, called the FBI Thursday evening, asking it to specifically process the crime scene. The FBI team is also assisting with student witness interviews and shooter’s background investigation, an FBI note said.

According to FBI’s crime scene recreation, Kazmierczak entered the rear door of a lecture auditorium in Kohl Hall on the campus. A class of approximately 150 students was in progress when he began firing into the crowded auditorium. He then returned to the stage in the auditorium and shot himself fatally.

He was a graduate student in sociology at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois.

Three victims died at the scene, two died later at hospitals. Another 20 students were taken to hospital for treatment. Among the dead are four women and among the injured graduate student Joseph Peterson who was teaching the ill-fated geology class.

There was no Indian casualty, according to the Indian Students Association at NIU. There are 300-350 Indians among the 25,000 students at the campus.

Kazmierczak’s profile is baffling the authorities for it does not match that of a mass murderer.

“By all accounts that we can tell right now he was a very good student that the professors thought well of,” said NIU president John Peters Thursday evening.

Kazmierczak had no criminal record. But investigators learned that he bought a shotgun and a handgun a week ago, adding to his arsenal of two handguns bought last year.

He had a police-issued firearms owners’ identification card, as required by state law, but such cards are rarely issued to those with recent mental health problems.

And he seems to have had psychiatric history. A former employee at a Chicago psychiatric treatment centre has been quoted as saying that Kazmierczak was placed there after high school by his parents. She said he used to cut himself, and had resisted taking his medications. He grew up in suburbun Chicago before his family moved to Florida.

A police officer said Kazmierczak had become erratic in the past two weeks after he had stopped taking his medication.

Authorities were also searching for a woman who police believe may have been Kazmierczak’s girlfriend. They were looking into whether the couple recently broke up.

At Friday morning’s televised press conference, Peters stated: “We are dealing with a disturbed individual who intended to do harm on this campus.”

The NIU tragedy followed another campus shooting on Feb 8. A woman shot two fellow students fatally before committing suicide at Louisiana Technical College in Baton Rouge.

The worst campus massacre in the US history happened at Virginia Tech university when last April a mentally disturbed South Korean American student killed 32 students and faculty before killing himself. Among the victims were an Indian student and an Indian American professor.

Inevitably the NIU shooting will add fuel to the debate on liberal gun laws in the country.

Presidential hopeful Barack Obama reacted by saying that the US must do “whatever it takes” to eradicate gun violence. He said the individual gun right that the Second Amendment to the Constitution grants is also subject to common-sense regulations like background checks.

The gun lobby is strong in the country. Fifty-five senators and 250 congressmen, and now Vice President Dick Cheney, have supported a brief to have the Supreme Court overturn a ban on handguns by the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.).

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