- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 16, 2008

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 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 shot 21 students — five fatally — before committing suicide.

University Police Chief Donald Grady said, without giving details, that Kazmierczak had become erratic in the past two weeks after he stopped taking his medication. But that seemed to come as news to many of those who knew him.

“We had no indications at all this would be the type of person that would engage in such activity,” Chief 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 this site — remained a mystery. Police said they found no suicide note.

Authorities yesterday were searching for a woman who police think may have been Kazmierczak’s girlfriend. Neighbors said he was living with a woman. According to a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, authorities are looking into whether Kazmierczak and the woman recently broke up.

Investigators learned that a week ago, on Feb. 8, Mr. Kazmierczak walked into a Champaign gun store and picked up two guns — the Remington shotgun and a Glock 9 mm handgun. He had bought the two other 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, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. A criminal background check was done, but Kazmierczak 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.

Kazmierczak 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 Seung-Hui Cho — a sullen misfit who could barely look anyone in the eye, much less carry on a conversation — Kazmierczak appeared functional. His University of Illinois student ID depicts a smiling, clean-cut man, unlike the scowling images of Cho that surfaced after his rampage.

CNN reported a bizarre link between the two men last night — a Web site Kazmierczak used to buy gun accessories is owned by TGSCOM Inc., the same company from which Cho bought one of the guns used in his rampage, though he used a different site.

Chris Larrison, an assistant professor of social work, said Kazmierczak did data entry for Mr. Larrison’s research grant on mental health clinics. Mr. Larrison was stunned by the shooting rampage, as was the gunman’s faculty adviser, professor Janet Carter-Black.

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

Kazmierczak worked for a short time last fall at the Rockville Correctional Facility, an adult medium-security prison in Rockville, Ind., and also had a short-lived stint in the Army. He enlisted in September 2001, but was discharged in February 2002 for an “unspecified” reason, said Army spokesman Paul Boyce.

Speaking yesterday in Lakeland, Fla., Kazmierczak’s distraught father could provide no clues.

“Please leave me alone. … This is a very hard time for me,” Mr. Kazmierczak told reporters, throwing his arms up and weeping after emerging briefly from his house. He declined further comment.

The gunman’s sister, Susan Kazmierczak, posted a statement on the door of her Urbana, Ill., home that said “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.”

The shootings prompted reactions from leading presidential candidates yesterday, though both Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton did not call for specific gun-control measures.

Mr. Obama said the country must do “whatever it takes” to eradicate gun violence but said he supports an individual’s right to keep and bear arms. Mrs. Clinton spoke similarly, saying that “while safeguarding and respecting our Second Amendment rights, we have to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists, gang members and people with mental health problems.”

Republican Mike Huckabee called the ambush “a reminder again of how vulnerable life is.”

“Obviously no president can say you’re going to go out there and prevent people from doing crazy things,” the ordained Baptist minister said at a campaign stop. “Hopefully what you can do is to make sure when crazy things happen … your heart, your prayers and your thoughts go to those people.”

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