NIU Report: Shooter angered by academic changes

FILE: Students walk past Cole Hall on the campus of Northern Illinois University on March 6, 2008, a building that remains empty and that students avoid because of the painful memories of the Feb. 14, 2008 shooting rampage where five students were killed. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

March 18, 2010 3:37:04 PM PDT
Northern Illinois University released a 322-page report on a February 14, 2008, shooting that killed five students and injured 21 others.

The report was made available online at Download the report (PDF)

In the report, NIU President John G. Peters refers to Valentine's Day 2008 as the "darkest day" in the school's history. "On that day we lost five students - young people whose lives stretched before them with untold promise. Twenty-one others were injured, some seriously. Their classmates in Cole Hall that day were shaken to their core and the entire campus was traumatized by an incomprehensible act of violence." Those students -- Ryanne Mace, Daniel Parmenter, Gayle Dubowski, Catalina Garcia and Julianna Gehant -- were memorialized in the report.

The goal of the report is to review incidents prior to the shooting, including the mental health of the shooter, Steven Kazmierczak, who also killed himself that day, and look at the school's response and policies.

According to the report, Kazmierczak may have been motivated in part by anger at the school for academic changes. It says Kazmierczak was a bright student, praised by professors for his studies in criminology. But it says he may have been angered by what he felt was a de-emphasis of that field.

The report says his sense of resentment may have been all the greater because he may have viewed NIU as "surrogate family."

Peters says the report marks closure for his community.

"Unfortunately, when you're dealing with individuals like this, who are so horribly mentally ill, you never really no why, but at least we've made a really good effort to isolate some of these factors," said Peters.

Many of those factors are described in the 300-page report of what drove Kazmierczak to kill.

Peter says it reads as a tragedy, a family that rejected him, numerous suicide attempts, a failed stint in the Army and then a dissolution in his mind of his surrogate family, NIU's sociology department where he was a model student -- changes that were misunderstood by the killer.

"We need to do more to help get these kids help and treatment. The problem is the stigma that is attached to it. Then there's is the balance between that and, you know, privacy," said Peters.

The report says Kazmierczak came back to NIU to avenge the loss of hope that he had found at NIU as an undergraduate.

As students walk by the building where Kazmierczak killed five people Thursday, their emotions were mixed.

"To watch verybody that was involved and on campus, you know, once they are out of school here, I think it will be better closure for everybody," said Taylor Jacobs, media student.

"A man who resorts to silence is a man who has run out of ideas. It's an act of desperation. The man is a victim," said Chris George, history and philosophy Student.

Peters says the university has been branded from the incident but in a good way and it is clear, he reports, that little could have been done to stop a mentally ill murderer.

"While he was here, he was a model student," said Peters.

Kazmierczak left NIU in 2007 before completing a master's degree program.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.