Gunman shoots 22 in IL classroom

Northern Illinois University suspends activities, prayer vigils held, in wake of worst college shooting since Virginia Tech

BY JIM SKILLINGTON | DeKalb, IL | February 15, 2008



"We've asked them (students) to reach out to each other during this difficult time"

—John Peters, NIU president


A heavily armed former graduate student walked onto the stage of a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University (NIU) Thursday afternoon and opened fire on the class, killing five people and wounding 16 others before committing suicide.

It was the worst shooting on a college campus since April 2007 when 33 people died at Virginia Tech. Just last week, three students were killed in the classroom of a Louisiana college and in another incident of public violence, six people were killed last week during a city council meeting in Kirkwood, Mo.

Prayer vigils were scheduled Thursday night in four locations including the Lutheran Campus Ministry and an ecumenical prayer service was planned for Friday night.

According to university officials, the gunman had been studying sociology at the school last Spring but was not currently enrolled. All of those killed were undergraduate students.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their families," said NIU president John Peters in a Thursday night news conference. "We thank the community for the outpouring of sympathy during this terrible time of tragedy."

Classes and other activities at the school have been cancelled through the weekend. The University has made counseling availble for students and parents. "We've asked (students) to reach out to each other during this difficult time, and they've done that, and I'm proud of them," Peters said while urging students to take advantage of the campus counseling centers.

In December, the university closed for a day following the discovery of some graffiti in one of the school's residence halls that was deemed to be a possible threat against the student body. Unversity officials said Thursday they do not believe the two incidents are connected.

NIU is a diverse regional university with an enrollment of approximately 25,000 students. It includes seven degree-granting colleges, 55 undergraduate degrees and 75 graduate programs. It opened in 1899 as a teacher's college.

At least 14 religious organizations provide campus ministry programs to the university.


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