If there is such
a thing as a profile of a mass murderer, Stephen
Kazmierczak didn't fit it: outstanding student, engaging,
polite, and industrious, with what looked like a
bright future in the criminal justice field.
And yet on
Thursday, the 27-year-old Kazmierczak, armed with three
handguns and a brand-new pump-action shotgun he had carried
onto campus in a guitar case, stepped from behind a
screen on the stage of a lecture hall at Northern
Illinois University and opened fire on a geology class.
He killed five students before committing suicide.
chief Donald Grady said, without giving details, that
Kazmierczak had become erratic in the past two weeks after
he had stopped taking his medication. But that seemed
to come as news to many of those who knew him, and the
attack itself was positively baffling.
''We had no
indications at all this would be the type of person that
would engage in such activity,'' Grady said. He described
the gunman as a good student during his time at NIU,
and by all accounts a ''fairly normal'' person.
Exactly what set
Kazmierczak off -- and why he picked his former
university and that particular lecture hall -- remained a
mystery. Police said they found no suicide note.
learned that a week ago, on February 8, Kazmierczak walked
into a Champaign, Ill., gun store and picked up two guns --
the Remington shotgun and a Glock nine-millimeter
handgun. He bought the two other handguns at the same
shop -- a Hi-Point 380 on December 30 and a Sig Sauer
on August 6.
All four guns
were bought legally from a federally licensed firearms
dealer, said Thomas Ahern, an agency spokesman. At least one
criminal background check was performed. Kazmierczak
(pronounced kaz-MUR-chek) had no criminal record.
Kazmierczak had a
State Police-issued FOID, or firearms owners
identification card, which is required in Illinois to own a
gun, authorities said. Such cards are rarely issued to
those with recent mental health problems. The
application asks: ''In the past five years have you
been a patient in any medical facility or part of any
medical facility used primarily for the care or
treatment of persons for mental illness?''
went by Steve, graduated from NIU in 2007 and was a
graduate student in sociology there before leaving last year
and moving on to the graduate school of social work at
the University of Illinois in Champaign, 130 miles
Tech gunman Cho Seung-Hui -- a sullen misfit who could
barely look anyone in the eye, much less carry on a
conversation -- Kazmierczak appeared to fit in just
an assistant professor of social work, said Kazmierczak
did data entry for Larrison's research grant on mental
health clinics. Larrison was stunned by the shooting
rampage, as was the gunman's faculty adviser,
professor Jan Carter-Black.
engaging, motivated, responsible. I saw nothing to suggest
that there was anything troubling about his
behavior,'' she said.
Kazmierczak wanted to focus on mental health issues and
enrolled in August in a course she taught about human
behavior and the social environment, but withdrew in
September because he had gotten a job with the prison
system. He recently left the job and resumed classes
full-time in January, Carter-Black said.
His University of
Illinois student ID depicts a smiling, clean-cut
Kazmierczak, unlike the scowling, menacing-looking images of
Cho that surfaced after his rampage.
John Peters said Kazmierczak compiled ''a very good
academic record, no record of trouble'' at the
25,000-student campus in DeKalb. He won at least two
awards and served as an officer in two student groups
dedicated to promoting understanding of the criminal
Exactly what sort
of career he planned for himself was unclear. But he
wrote papers on self-injury in prison and the role of
religion in the creation of early U.S. prisons. The
research paper on self-injury in prison said his
interests also included political violence and peace and
in Lakeland, Fla., Kazmierczak's distraught father did
not immediately provide any clues to what led to the
''Please leave me
alone.... This is a very hard time for me,'' Robert
Kazmierczak told reporters, throwing his arms up and weeping
after emerging briefly from his house. He declined
further comment about his son and went back inside his
house, saying he was diabetic. A sign on the front
door said: ''Illini fans live here.''
Neighbors in the
brick apartment building in Champaign where Kazmierczak
last lived were shocked to hear he was the gunman.
possible,'' said Maurice Darling, 80, who lives in an
adjacent second-floor apartment. ''He seemed to be
much too nice.''
He said the tall,
thin, and bespectacled Kazmierczak shared the apartment
with a woman and neither showed any sign of anger or
aggression. ''They were friendly, agreeable -- just
like any neighbor would be,'' he said.
Chelsea Thrash, a
25-year-old waitress who lives with her 3-year-old
daughter in the apartment directly beneath Kazmierczak's,
said he was always up late and there was frequently a
lot of ''trampling'' noise coming through the hardwood
floor. She went up and knocked on the door once
recently at 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. to request quiet and he said
through the closed door, ''Oh, I'm sorry -- I dropped
''It's kind of
creepy,'' she said. ''I never thought someone in this tiny
corner of southwest Champaign would ever dream of that, let
alone carry it out, and have that above me and my
up in the Chicago suburb of Elk Grove Village, not far
from O'Hare Airport. His family lived most recently in a
middle-class neighborhood of mostly one-story tract
homes before moving away early in this decade. His
mother died in Florida in 2006 at age 58.
He was a B
student at Elk Grove High School, where school district
spokeswoman Venetia Miles said he was active in band and
took Japanese before graduating in 1998. He was also
in the chess club.
At NIU, six white
crosses were placed on a snow-covered hill around the
center of campus, which was closed Friday. They included the
names of four victims -- Daniel Parnmenter, Ryanne
Mace, Julianna Gehant, and Catalina Garcia. The two
other crosses were blank, though officials have
identified Kazmierczak's final victim as Gayle Dubowski.
19, a sophomore from Schaumburg, recalled how the gunman,
dressed in black and a stocking cap, burst through a stage
door in 200-seat Cole Hall just before class was about
to let out. He squeezed off more than 50 shots as
screaming students ran and crawled for cover.
first everyone thought it was a joke,'' Jerome said.
Everyone hit the floor, she said. Then she got up and ran,
but tripped. She said she felt like ''an open
decided to get me,'' Jerome said. ''I thought for sure he
was going to get me.'' (Deanna Bellandi, AP)