The two sides to the NIU shooter

By Sky Opila

The announcement of University graduate student Stephen Kazmierczak’s role as the gunman in Thursday’s shootings at Northern Illinois came as a shock to those who knew him.

The 27-year-old took the lives of five before turning one of three guns used in the attack on himself.

“He had stopped taking medication and become somewhat erratic in the last couple of weeks,” said Northern Illinois University Chief of Police Donald Grady.

The motive of the killer is still not known. Grady said Kazmierczak was an “outstanding” student while at NIU, and authorities were still trying to determine why he would kill. There was no known suicide note.

“We were dealing with a disturbed individual who intended to do harm on this campus,” said Northern Illinois University President John Peters.

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Janet Carter-Black, Kazmierczak’s academic adviser and an assistant professor in social work, said this announcement came as a total surprise to the University of Illinois School of Social Work. She added that Kazmierczak was just like the other students she works with and he showed dedication to his education, which largely focused on the prison system.

“This is an absolutely unbelievable event,” Carter-Black said, speaking on behalf of the school. “We’re going to do everything we can to move through this.”

Kazmierczak graduated from Northern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and pursued a graduate education there through the spring semester of 2007.

Starting in the summer of 2007, Kazmierczak, who lived at Country Fair apartments in Champaign with an unidentified woman, began taking classes at the University and did so up until Thursday’s incident.

Kazmierczak’s sister, Susan, also lives in the area and works for the Rural Champaign County Special Education Cooperative, a service organization which primarily plans, advises, recommends and provides special education services for children who have special needs.

“In addition to the loss of innocent lives, Stephen was a member of our family. We are grieving his loss as well as the loss of life resulting from his actions,” read a note posted on the door at Susan’s Urbana home.

The gunman’s father, Robert Kazmierczak, briefly came out of his single-story house in Lakeland, Fla., to talk to reporters, Friday.

“Please leave me alone. I have no statement to make and no comment, OK? I’d appreciate that. This is a very hard time. I’m a diabetic, and I don’t want to go into a relapse,” he said before breaking down crying.

He then went back inside his house, which has a sign on the front door that says “Illini fans live here.”

Stephen Kazmierczak spent more than a year at the Thresholds-Mary Hill House in Chicago, where his parents placed him after high school because he had become “unruly” at home, former house manager Louise Gbadamashi told The Associated Press.

Kazmierczak reportedly used to cut himself and once lived at an inpatient psychiatric rehabilitation center in Chicago, the former employee said Friday.

Kazmierczak was very complex, at times very engaging and obviously very intelligent, she said. But he could also be passive-aggressive and had to be encouraged to socialize because he preferred to stay in his room and work on his computer.

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

How the gunman got the firearms

By Karis Morrall

Assistant Newscast Editor

Stephen Kazmierczak reportedly purchased two of his three guns from a Champaign firearms dealer. He bought a pump-action Remington shotgun and a Glock 9 mm handgun legally less than a week ago, on Feb. 9, authorities said.

Kazmierczak possessed a valid Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) Card.

A FOID card must be issued before the purchase of a firearm. The FOID application asks questions about the person’s mental health hospitalizations, previous convictions and citizenship. Though Kazmierczak was treated for a mental illness, he had never been hospitalized. Once the Illinois State Police review a FOID application, they run a background check on the individual.

“The FOID system is nationally revered as one of the best ways to determine eligibility in the country,” said Master Sergeant John Coffman, the Bureau Chief at the Fire Service for the Illinois State police. “But I think we’re constantly looking for ways to improve upon that.”

Before the purchase of a firearm, the gun dealer must notify the State of Illinois and ask them to run another background check.

“I think that, so far, records have shown that we’ve done a pretty good job of making sure that eligible people can get a gun and those who are not eligible are disqualified,” Coffman said.

Once the dealer receives an approval from the state, the buyer must abide by the state’s waiting period before taking possession of the firearm. The waiting period is 24 hours for a long gun and 72 hours for a hand gun.

A Green Bay-based Internet gun dealer who sold a weapon to the Virginia Tech shooter said Friday that he sold handgun accessories to Kazmierczak.

Eric Thompson said his Web site, www.topglock.com, sold two empty 9 mm Glock magazines and a Glock holster to Stephen Kazmierczak on Feb. 4, just 10 days before the 27-year-old opened fire in a classroom and killed five before committing suicide.

Another Web site run by Thompson’s company, www.thegunstore.com, also sold a Walther .22-caliber handgun to Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people in April on the Virginia Tech campus before killing himself.

“I’m still blown away by the coincidences,” Thompson said Friday. “I’m shaking. I can’t believe somebody would order from us again and do this.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report