An armed man killed five and wounded 18 people and then killed himself at Northern Illinois University. The gunman opened fire in the middle of a lecture. The attacker has been identified as a student who came from a different university.
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The man wearing black clothes walked onto the stage of the lecture hall and started shooing on a packed class on science. Five students were killed on the scene. At least two of the wounded were hospitalized in critical condition. Many students dove to the floor, many others ran toward the exit as the shooter continued to fire his gun indiscriminately.
Desiree Smith, one of the students who was present in the audience during the shooting told the Associated Press: “I kept thinking, 'Oh God, he's going to shoot me. Oh God, I'm dead. I'm dead. I'm dead. People were crawling on each other, trampling each other. As I got near the door, I got up and I started running."
Witnesses said the skinny gunman, dressed in black and wearing a stocking cap, emerged from behind a screen on the stage of 200-seat Cole Hall and opened fire just as the class was about to end around 3 p.m.
Eighteen victims were brought to Kishwaukee Community Hospital, where one died, according to the hospital's Web site. One male was transferred in critical condition and died at OSF St. Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, an official said.
Minutes after the shooting erupted, students phoned each other and sent text messages even before school officials could warn them, many said. The school Web site announced a possible gunman on campus within 20 minutes of the shots and locked down the campus, part of a new security plan created after a student at Virginia Tech killed 32 people last year.
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."
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 AP reports.
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 at Northern Illinois University became the fourth at U.S. schools within only one week.