|Mourners gather at Michigan State (Washington Post)|
I sat down yesterday to write this post, which I thought would be about America's most recent bout of mass gun violence -- the shooting on Monday night (2/13/23) at Michigan State University that left three students dead and five others critically wounded. Before typing the first word on this post, I happened to see an online report about a shooting at a school in Pittsburgh, PA, on Tuesday afternoon (2/14/23).
Four students were wounded, but no life-threatening injuries were reported, so we can be thankful for that. But we live in an age where a journalist can start working on a story about one mass shooting and learn, before typing a word, about another -- more recent -- mass shooting. That is as good a sign as any, I suppose, that our society has failed to come to grips with a gun-violence problem that has plagued us for far too long. From a report at The Washington Post:
Less than a day after a shooting rampage that killed three Michigan State University students and critically injured five more, details about the lives of the victims — and gunman — are surfacing.
Anthony Dwayne McRae, a 43-year-old who police said had mental health issues, killed three students, according to authorities: Arielle Anderson, remembered as a straight-A student; Alexandria Verner, a three-sport high school athlete; and Brian Fraser, who led his fraternity and was called a “great friend.”
The Michigan State shooting involved horrific acts of violence -- plus deceit, which apparently helped it turn deadly, The Post reports:
McRae in 2019 faced a felony weapons charge for carrying a loaded firearm without a concealed-weapons permit but ultimately pleaded to a misdemeanor. If he had been convicted of the felony, he would have been barred from legally owning a gun, according to a Michigan county prosecutor. Michael McRae told The Washington Post that his son lied and told him he no longer possessed a gun. When asked about hearing the sound of gunfire in the backyard, the son insisted it was fireworks.
The elder McRae said his son repeatedly lied about possessing a firearm and never seemed to recover from the death of his mother due to a stroke in 2020:
Anthony Dwayne McRae, the gunman who killed three students and critically injured five others at Michigan State University before killing himself, “kept lying” about owning a gun in their home after his 2019 arrest and shooting the firearm in the backyard, his father told The Washington Post.
Michael McRae said his son had bought a gun sometime after he was arrested in 2019 on a weapons violation but never admitted that he had it in the house and refused to show it to his father. When the father confronted the son about gunshots he heard in his backyard in Lansing, he said, Anthony McRae told him it was fireworks, even after Michael McRae saw bullet casings on the grass.
“I told him to get rid of the gun,” the 66-year-old father told The Post. “He kept lying to me about it and told me he got rid of it.”
The father said his 43-year-old son had struggled in the two-plus years after Linda McRae, Anthony’s mother, died of a stroke in 2020. Michael McRae noted how his son was “grieving and crying a lot” and “stayed in his room like a turtle” for hours at a time whenever he was home.
“He never let me in the room to show me the gun,” the father said. “If he showed it to me, I would have put it in the garbage.”
Michael McRae noted that his son was “depressed and overly stressed out” due to his mother’s death and not working for months. He offered his apologies to the families of the victims, adding that he hoped they could one day “forgive my son for what he’s done.”
“He was a mama’s boy, and he never really got over that his mom was gone,” the father told The Post. “I could see that he was changing, but I never thought in my life that he would do something crazy like this.”
Meanwhile, the grieving process has begun, and that is all too real:
Dozens packed St. Paul on the Lake Catholic Church to grieve, honor and pray for Brian Fraser, one of the three Michigan State University students who were shot and killed less than 24 hours earlier. Five other students were critically injured in the shooting.
Father Jim Bilot asked any Michigan State University students or alums in the congregation Tuesday night to raise their hands. Many did.
“Spartan strong, right?” the priest said.
Fraser, a sophomore at MSU, was one of their own. Growing up, he worshiped at St. Paul’s, a Catholic church in Grosse Pointe Farms some 80 miles away from the MSU campus, and his family was in the pews at Tuesday night’s prayer service. Bilot asked his flock to not only pray for Fraser and his family but also for the two others killed Monday night: Alexandria Verner and Arielle Anderson, both juniors.
“We’re here tonight to pray as a community of faith, to have strength, to have determination, to have a sense of purpose that our lives are valuable and important to us,” Bilot said.
Bilot said that even at “that horrendous moment in Brian’s life last night,” he was not alone: “His angel was there to support him, to comfort him and most importantly to protect his soul.”
Bilot told churchgoers that the coming days would be difficult, that there would be many hard questions and that the moment would require faith in something bigger than themselves — God, but also each other.
“Are you weary? Are you burdened? Are you tired? I know that I am. And [Fraser’s] family is beyond that,” Bilot said. “But we will be the ones to support, to encourage, to trust — not in ourselves — but in that spirit of love that will guide us through these days.”