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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
AP Stories on NIU Shootings 
14th-Feb-2008 11:01 pm
Rich Mullins Songs/Hiding Face
Edited/Updated.

Man Kills 5, Self at Northern Illinois
Campus Stunned by N. Illinois Shooting
NIU Shooting Tests New Security Plan
Campus Stunned by N. Illinois Shooting
NIU Gunman Stopped Taking Medication
NIU Shootings Stir Sense of Helplessness
Ill. Gunman's Rampage Baffles Friends

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Man Kills 5, Self at Northern Illinois
Feb 14, 11:00 PM (ET)

By CARYN ROUSSEAU

DEKALB, Ill. (AP) - A former student dressed in black opened fire with a shotgun and two handguns from the stage of a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University on Thursday, killing five students and injuring 16 others before committing suicide, authorities said.

The gunman fatally shot four women and a man in a "brief, rapid-fire assault" that sent terrified students running for cover, university President John Peters said. Four died at the scene, including the gunman, and the other two died at a hospital, he said. Two victims were in critical condition.

Investigators did not know what led the gunman, a former NIU graduate student in sociology, to spray bullets at the geology class instructor and dozens of students in the large hall around 3 p.m.

"I kept thinking, 'Oh God, he's going to shoot me. Oh God, I'm dead. I'm dead. I'm dead,'" said Desiree Smith, a senior journalism major who dropped to the floor near the back of the auditorium.

"People were crawling on each other, trampling each other," she said. "As I got near the door, I got up and I started running."

Officials said 162 students were registered for the class but it was unknown how many were there Thursday.

Lauren Carr said she was sitting in the third row when she saw the shooter walk through a door on the right-hand side of the stage, pointing a gun straight ahead.

"I personally Army-crawled halfway up the aisle," said Carr, a 20-year-old sophomore. "I said I could get up and run or I could die here."

She said a student in front of her was bleeding, "but he just kept running."

"I heard this girl scream, 'Run, he's reloading the gun.'"

Student Jerry Santoni was in a back row when he saw the gunman enter a service door to the stage.

"I saw him shoot one round at the teacher," he said. "After that, I proceeded to get down as fast as I could."

Santoni dived down, hitting his head the seat in front of him, leaving a knot about half the size of a pingpong ball on his forehead.

The teacher, a graduate student, was wounded but was expected to recover, the school president said. He did not give details of the injuries.

Peters said the gunman was not currently enrolled at the 25,000-student campus about 65 miles west of Chicago.

"It appears he may have been a student somewhere else," University Police Chief Donald Grady said.

Seventeen victims were brought to nearby Kishwaukee Community Hospital, where one died, according to spokeswoman Theresa Komitas. School officials said four people, including the gunman, died at the lecture hall and two later died at hospitals.

Michael Gentile was meeting with two of his students directly beneath the lecture hall when the shootings happened. He could hear the chaos a few feet above his head.

"The shotgun blast must have been so loud," said Gentile, a 27-year-old media studies instructor. "It sounded like something was dropping down the stairs... We had no idea what this was."

Then, shorter, sharper noises he recognized as handgun shots.

"There was a pretty quick succession ... just pow, pow, pow," said Gentile, who didn't leave his office for about 90 minutes. He used a surveillance camera just outside his office to confirm that the people knocking on his door were police.

George Gaynor, a senior geography student, who was in Cole Hall when the shooting happened, told the student newspaper the Northern Star that the shooter was "a skinny white guy with a stocking cap on."

He described the scene immediately following the incident as terrifying and chaotic.

"Some girl got hit in the eye, a guy got hit in the leg," Gaynor said outside just minutes after the shooting occurred. "It was like five minutes before class ended too."

Witnesses said the young man carried a shotgun and a pistol. Student Edward Robinson told WLS that the gunman appeared to target students in one part of the lecture hall.

"It was almost like he knew who he wanted to shoot," Robinson said. "He knew who and where he wanted to be firing at."

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms sent 15 agents to the scene, according to spokesman Thomas Ahern. He said information about the weapons involved would be sent to the ATF's national database in Washington and given urgent priority. The FBI also was assisting.

All classes were canceled Thursday night and the campus was closed on Friday. Students were urged to call their parents "as soon as possible" and were offered counseling at any residence hall, according to the school Web site.

The school was closed for one day during final exam week in December after campus police found threats, including racial slurs and references to shootings earlier in the year at Virginia Tech, scrawled on a bathroom wall in a dormitory. Police determined after an investigation that there was no imminent threat and the campus was reopened. Peters said he knew of no connection between that incident and Thursday's attack. Peters said he knew of no connection between that incident and Thursday's attack.

The shooting was the fourth at a U.S. school within a week.

On Feb. 8, a woman shot two fellow students to death before committing suicide at Louisiana Technical College in Baton Rouge. In Memphis, Tenn., a 17-year-old is accused of shooting and critically wounding a fellow student Monday during a high school gym class, and the 15-year-old victim of a shooting at an Oxnard, Calif., junior high school has been declared brain dead.

---

Associated Press writers Carla K. Johnson, Michael Tarm, David Mercer, Martha Irvine, Nguyen Huy Vu, Sarah Rafi and Mike Robinson contributed to this report.



Campus Stunned by N. Illinois Shooting
Feb 14, 11:03 PM (ET)

DEKALB, Ill. (AP) - Word of the ambush attack inside a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University on Thursday sent panic throughout the sprawling campus.

Senior Ashley Dallman said she was in an acting class in a neighboring building when several students from Cole Hall came running in. Her professors locked the doors and they listened to news reports on the radio for about an hour before school officials told them it was OK to leave.

"We all started crying," she said. "We didn't know what to do."

Authorities said the gunman, wielding a shotgun and two handguns, jumped out from behind a screen or curtain in a geology class and opened fire, killing five students and wounding 16 before killing himself.

Alan Edrinn, 21, a journalism major from Matteson, Ill., arrived at the scene outside Cole Hall around 3:30 p.m. - minutes after the attack.

"It was very chaotic. People were definitely in a panic," Edrinn said. "I saw bodies on the sidewalk, it looked like two, people were attending to them."

"Police were trying to get people back, there were people crying."

Tracy Knuth, a 23-year-old senior at NIU, saw dozens of ambulances from her home across the street from campus.

"Everyone is completely and utterly freaked out," Knuth said by phone from her apartment. "It's eerie. Now, nobody's outside. They told us to stay in."

Knuth said a large number of courses are taught at Cole Hall, from undergraduate math and science to liberal arts courses; she said the hall has two or three large lecture auditoriums that can each accommodate about 500 students.

"Everyone is scared to go to classes next week," she said.

All classes were canceled Thursday night and the 25,000-student campus was closed on Friday. Students were urged to call their parents "as soon as possible" and were offered counseling at the residence halls, according to the school Web site.

---

Associated Press writers Martha Irvine, Michael Tarm and Carla K. Johnson contributed to this report.



NIU Shooting Tests New Security Plan
Feb 15, 3:57 AM (ET)

By CARLA K. JOHNSON

Minutes after the shotgun blasts erupted in a science class at Northern Illinois University on Thursday, word of a gunman on campus spread just as fast as the fear.

Students phoned each other and sent text messages even before school officials could warn them, many said.

Drew Creal, a sophomore from St. Charles, was in a building next to Cole Hall when students around him began receiving text messages from other students that read, "There's shooting in Cole Hall" and "Get off campus," he said.

In disbelief, they ran to a window, only to see students running in terror from Cole Hall. As Creal ran downstairs, he saw an injured student carried in, bleeding from the leg.

Within 20 minutes of the shooting, officials posted a message on the school's Web site about a report of a possible gunman on campus and warning students to "get to a safe area and take precautions until given the all clear."

By 3:40 p.m. NIU officials canceled classes and closed the campus as part of a new security plan created after a student at Virginia Tech killed 32 people last year.

"This is a tragedy, but from all indications we did everything we could when we found out," Peters said.

Kishwaukee Community Hospital's Web site also quickly provided updates on the number of injured arriving from the campus.

The response wasn't as effective as senior Christian Crum would have liked. He said he also got word of the shooting via student-to-student text messages. "But I never got a text message from the university," he said.

Crum got to his off-campus home by 3:20 p.m., and received a warning from the university on his computer e-mail about 50 minutes later - more than an hour after the shooting began, he said. He said the "received time" on e-mail was 4:11 p.m.

"The e-mail wouldn't have been that helpful," Crum said.

Michael Gentile, a media studies instructor who was meeting with students directly beneath the lecture hall when the shootings occurred, said his Internet service was down but he followed events through phone calls to a secretary in the building.

He doubts campus police or administration could have done more than they did to alert students and others on campus.

"Knowing that the campus, maybe it was within 20 minutes, was in lockdown," he said. "Information can only travel so fast. ... I think Northern's response was as good as any institution could be when somebody decides to shoot up a classroom."



Campus Stunned by N. Illinois Shooting
Feb 15, 5:25 AM (ET)

By DON BABWIN

DEKALB, Ill. (AP) - Word of the ambush attack inside a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University on Thursday sent panic throughout the sprawling campus.

Jerry Santoni was in a back row of the hall when he saw a man walk onto the stage and open fire.

"I saw him shoot one round at the teacher," Santoni said. "After that, I proceeded to get down as fast as I could."

Santoni dived down, hitting his head on the seat in front of him with such violence that it left a knot on his forehead. Then he fled Cole Hall.

Authorities said the intruder, a former student wielding a shotgun and two handguns, killed five people and wounded more than a dozen others before killing himself.

Senior Ashley Dallman said she was in an acting class in a neighboring building when several students from Cole Hall came running in. Her professors locked the doors and they listened to news reports on the radio for about an hour before school officials told them they could leave.

"We all started crying," she said. "We didn't know what to do. It was a very intense moment."

Police said they got to the hall within two minutes of the 3 p.m. shooting. Alan Edrinn, 21, a journalism major from Matteson, Ill., arrived outside Cole Hall a half hour later.

"It was very chaotic. People were definitely in a panic," Edrinn said. "I saw bodies on the sidewalk, it looked like two, people were attending to them."

The campus was eerily quiet Thursday night. All the lights were on in the library - about 200 yards from the crime-scene tape that surrounded Cole Hall - but the seats inside sat empty.

Fliers offering counseling services were posted around campus residence halls, where puffy-eyed students pulled luggage for trips home and kept their cell phones close at hand.

Mike MacQueen's phone brought no comfort.

"I just got a text message that a friend of mine passed away," the 20-year-old from Elmhurst said. "He was a good person, he didn't deserve to die."

"It's surreal, this happening so close to home," he said.

Tracy Knuth, a 23-year-old senior, saw dozens of ambulances swarm onto the scene. "Everyone is completely and utterly freaked out," Knuth said by phone from her apartment.

Knuth said a large number of courses are taught at Cole Hall, from undergraduate math and science to liberal arts courses; she said the hall has two or three large lecture auditoriums that can each accommodate about 500 students.

"Everyone is scared to go to classes next week," she said.

All classes were canceled Thursday night and the 25,000-student campus was closed on Friday.

Freshman Monica DeFrancesco initially thought about heading home to her parents' house after the shooting, but decided to stay in her dorm room in Douglas Hall, a 10-minute walk from Cole Hall.

"There's a lot of security," said DeFrancesco, who didn't see the shootings or know anyone involved. "They're checking your bags and your IDs ... I feel very comfortable."

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Associated Press writers Martha Irvine, Michael Tarm and Carla K. Johnson contributed to this report.



NIU Gunman Stopped Taking Medication
Feb 15, 4:27 PM (ET)

By DEANNA BELLANDI

DEKALB, Ill. (AP) - If there is such a thing as a profile of a mass murderer, Stephen Kazmierczak didn't match 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.

University Police 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 apparently a "fairly normal" person.

Exactly what set Kazmierczak off - and why he picked his former university and that particular lecture hall - also remained a mystery.

Police said they learned that a week ago, on Feb. 8, Kazmierczak walked into a Champaign, gun store and picked up two guns - the Remington shotgun and a Glock 9mm handgun. He bought the other two handguns at the same shop - a High Point .380 on Dec. 30 and a Sig Sauer on Aug. 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; and generally, federal laws aimed at preventing the mentally ill from obtaining guns do not kick in unless the would-be gun buyer has been committed or otherwise adjudged mentally ill.

Kazmierczak, who 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 away.

Unlike Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung-Hui - a sullen misfit who could barely look anyone else in the eye, much less carry on a conversation - Kazmierczak appeared to fit in just fine.

Chris Larrison, 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.

"He was engaging, motivated, responsible. I saw nothing to suggest that there was anything troubling about his behavior," she said.

Carter-Black 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.

NIU President 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 justice system.

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 social justice.

Speaking Friday in Lakeland, Fla., Kazmierczak's distraught father did not immediately provide any clues to what led to the bloodshed.

"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.

"It's not 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," she 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 my weight."

"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 daughter."

Kazmierczak grew 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, Catalina Garcia. The two other crosses were blank, though officials have identified Kazmierczak's final victim as Gayle Dubowski.

Allyse Jerome, 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.

"Honestly, at 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 target."

"He could've decided to get me," Jerome said. "I thought for sure he was going to get me."

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Associated Press writers Don Babwin, Caryn Rousseau, Ashley M. Heher, Dave Carpenter, Carla K. Johnson, Lindsey Tanner, David Mercer, Nguyen Huy Vu, Michael Tarm, Mike Robinson and Anthony McCartney in Lakeland, Fla., contributed to this report.



NIU Shootings Stir Sense of Helplessness
Feb 15, 10:00 PM (ET)

By SHARON COHEN

Bloody students fleeing in terror. Bodies carried out on stretchers. Candlelight vigils and makeshift shrines. Another campus, another deadly attack with a sickening senselessness that now borders on routine.

Despite a national push to secure schools after the Virginia Tech shootings, the rampage at Northern Illinois University this week proves a gut-wrenching reality: Unless colleges are willing to turn themselves into armed camps, they're helpless against these kinds of attacks.

As word of the shootings rippled throughout the country, students and authorities alike reacted with frustration and - tellingly - resignation.

"I don't think there's anything that could be done," said Brittany Dornack, 21, a sophomore at the University of Minnesota.

"People do what they feel like they need to do, and I don't think anyone is going to be able to stop them. People will just have to either learn to live in fear ... or they'll just have to not think about it."

The gunman this time, Steven Kazmierczak, a 27-year-old NIU graduate, opened fire Thursday afternoon in a lecture hall, killing five students and injuring more than a dozen others in a rapid-fire assault that lasted just a few minutes. He committed suicide on the stage.

Authorities responded quickly; the first 10 police officers were on the scene in 90 seconds. NIU launched its emergency alert system - a carefully rehearsed plan developed after Virginia Tech - sending out e-mails and messages on Web sites to notify students that a possible gunman was on campus and they needed to find a safe area.

"We had a plan in place," said NIU President John Peters. "We did everything we could to ensure the safety of this university ... Nothing is perfect, but I believe it did work."

The plan will be reviewed, he said, but it and others like it are response plans, meant to contain the carnage rather than keep it from happening. As NIU Police Chief Donald Grady said, there is no foolproof way to prevent this type of tragedy.

"I wish I could tell you that there was a panacea for this kind of a thing, but you've noticed that there's been multiple shootings all over this country within the past six months," he said. "It's a horrible circumstance, and as much as we do it's unlikely that anyone would ever have the ability to stop an incident like this from beginning."

That sober assessment weighed on the minds of NIU students who piled suitcases and laundry bags into cars Friday and left the nearly empty, snow-covered campus, apprehensive about their eventual return.

"You're scared to go to school lecture halls and I'm going to be looking over my shoulder and skeptical of people coming to class late," said Allison Warren, a 20-year-old NIU student. "You kind of think it won't happen around here. It could happen anywhere. It could happen anywhere and there's no way of really protecting yourself."

NIU, which is spread over 755 acres, illustrates the difficulty in protecting college campuses that have scores, or hundreds of buildings. Locking them, installing metal detectors or putting security personnel in each of them are not considered practical security measures.

The shootings, of course, have renewed questions about the availability of guns - Kazmierczak bought all four guns legally from the same shop in Champaign, Ill. - and the tricky balance in keeping public places accessible but safe.

"People ask the question, 'Can you stop it?' That demonstrates the bigger question: 'Can we stop it anywhere?'" asked Jonathan Kassa, executive director of Security on Campus, a nonprofit group in Pennsylvania. "College and university campuses are not perfect oases. This is not the ivory tower."

Kassa said NIU's plan appears to have prevented more deaths.

"The lesson to be drawn from this is that it could have been worse if people were not prepared," he said. "Colleges and university campuses are unique but they must be seen as communities like everything else."

Still, the freer environment of campuses also can pose security risks, said Ron Stephens, director of the National School Safety Center in California.

"For the most part, college and university campuses are much more wide open to the public," he said. "There's not a lot of screening done for students. There are probably few institutions that screen ... to see if someone coming on campus has a troubled or checkered past."

Others pointed out that violence is not limited to college campuses. In the past two weeks, there have been fatal shootings at a Louisiana vocational college in the urban setting of Baton Rouge, a Missouri city hall and a clothing chain store in suburban Chicago.

"People go crazy whether it's at a school or at a workplace. ... You can't live your life not going to class," said Barbara Coons, a 21-year-old junior at the University of Pennsylvania.

That may be harder to say on campus ripped raw by violence.

"My dad was saying last year, 'I'm really glad you go to Northern where stuff like that doesn't happen,'" said Bryce Lack, a 19-year-old NIU student, referring to the Virginia Tech massacre. "You look at everybody differently now."

Desiree Smith was in the geology class when Kazmierczak opened fire. She dropped to the floor as he squeezed off shots, grabbing another terrified student's leg as a show of support.

She crawled first, then got up and ran for her life.

She doesn't care how common such shootings have become - they make no sense to her.

"I don't understand why you'd want to go to a random place and hurt random people you've never met," she said. ... "I really hate it. I wish we could figure out how to solve this problem because it makes me sick."

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Associated Press writer Elizabeth Dunbar in Minneapolis contributed to this report.



Ill. Gunman's Rampage Baffles Friends
Feb 15, 11:48 PM (ET)

By DEANNA BELLANDI

DEKALB, Ill. (AP) - If there is such a thing as a profile of a mass murderer, Steven 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.

University Police 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.

Late Friday, a former employee at a Chicago psychiatric treatment center told The Associated Press that Kazmierczak was placed there after high school by his parents. She said he used to cut himself, and had resisted taking his medications.

Authorities also were searching for a woman who police believe may have been Kazmierczak's girlfriend. According to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is still under investigation, authorities were looking into whether Kazmierczak and the woman recently broke up.

Investigators learned that a week ago, on Feb. 9, Kazmierczak walked into a Champaign, gun store and picked up two guns - the Remington shotgun and a Glock 9mm handgun. He bought the two other handguns at the same shop - a Hi-Point .380 on Dec. 30 and a Sig Sauer on Aug. 6.

All four guns were bought legally from a federally licensed firearms dealer, said Thomas Ahern, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. 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?"

A Green Bay, Wis.-based Internet gun dealer who sold a weapon to the Virginia Tech shooter last year said he also sold handgun accessories to Kazmierczak.

"I'm still blown away by the coincidences," Eric Thompson said. "I'm shaking. I can't believe somebody would order from us again and do this."

Thompson's Web site, , sold two empty 9 mm Glock magazines and a Glock holster to Kazmierczak on Feb. 4., though he had no idea whether they were used in Thursday's rampage. Thompson said his site did not sell Kazmierczak any bullets or guns.http://www.topglock.com

Kazmierczak, who 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 at Urbana-Champaign, 130 miles away.

Unlike Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho - a sullen misfit who could barely look anyone in the eye, much less carry on a conversation - Kazmierczak appeared to fit in just fine.

Chris Larrison, 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.

"He was engaging, motivated, responsible. I saw nothing to suggest that there was anything troubling about his behavior," she said.

Carter-Black 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 worked briefly as a full-time corrections officer at the Rockville Correctional Facility, an adult medium-security prison in Rockville, Ind., about 80 miles from Champaign. His tenure there lasted only from Sept. 24 to Oct. 9, after which Indiana prisons spokesman Doug Garrison said "he just didn't show up one day."

Kazmierczak had left the job and resumed classes full-time at the Urbana-Champaign campus in January, Carter-Black said.

He also had a short-lived stint in the Army. He enlisted in the Army in September 2001, but was discharged in February 2002 for an "unspecified" reason, said Army spokesman Paul Boyce.

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.

NIU President 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 justice system.

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 social justice.

Speaking Friday in Lakeland, Fla., Kazmierczak's distraught father did not immediately provide any clues to what led to the bloodshed.

"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."

In Illinois, the gunman's sister, Susan Kazmierczak, posted a statement on the door of her Urbana home that said "We are both shocked and saddened. In addition to the loss of innocent lives, Steven was a member of our family. We are grieving his loss as well as the loss of life resulting from his actions."

Neighbors in the brick apartment building in Champaign where Kazmierczak last lived were shocked to hear he was the gunman.

Kazmierczak grew 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.

Kazmierczak spent more than a year at the Thresholds-Mary Hill House in the late 1990s, former house manager Louise Gbadamashi told the AP.

"He never wanted to identify with being mentally ill," she said. "That was part of the problem."

A man who answered the telephone at Mary Hill House on Friday night referred questions to officials in the company's corporate office. They did not immediately return messages left after business hours.

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 Parmenter, Ryanne Mace, Julianna Gehant, Catalina Garcia. The two other crosses were blank, though officials have identified Kazmierczak's final victim as Gayle Dubowski.

Allyse Jerome, 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.

"Honestly, at 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 target."

"He could've decided to get me," Jerome said. "I thought for sure he was going to get me."

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Associated Press writers Tamara Starks, Don Babwin, Caryn Rousseau, Ashley M. Heher, Dave Carpenter, Carla K. Johnson, Lindsey Tanner, David Mercer, Nguyen Huy Vu, Michael Tarm and Mike Robinson in Chicago, Anthony McCartney in Lakeland, Fla., and Matt Apuzzo and Lolita Baldor in Washington contributed to this report, along with the AP News Research Center in New York.
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