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Top 8 Of '08: No. 3 - NIU Shooting

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Dec 30, 2008 10:45PM

Through Wednesday, we're counting down the top 8 local stories that captivated us in 2008.

A peaceful Valentine's Day on the campus of Northern Illinois University was shattered just after 3 p.m. by gunfire when former student Stephen Kazmierczak opened fire on a class in a lecture hall in Cole Hall. Ultimately, 18 students were injured and five students were killed; Kazmierczak then took his own life, bringing the death toll to six. It was the fourth deadliest university shooting in United States history and occurred less than a year after the Virginia Tech massacre. At a press conference the next day, NIU President Dr. John Peters said, "We will get through this together as a community." Classes were canceled and wouldn't resume until February 25th.

In the wake of the shooting, as the healing began, focus turned to the shooter, Kazmierczak, a former graduate student who suffered from mental illness. The profile on him that ran in Esquire was one of the best pieces we read related to him. Disturbing details emerged, including the care Kazmierczak took to throw police off his trail. The shooting even served to reopen the debate on gun control.

Another emotional aspect of the incident was what to do with Cole Hall. Gov. Blagojevich originally called for the building to be torn down, a decision that was met with great backlash from the NIU community. Eventually, the university settled on renovating the building.

The five students who died in the shooting were:

  • Catalina Garcia, 20, of Cicero

  • Julianna Gehant, 32, of Meriden

  • Ryanne Mace, 19, of Carpentersville

  • Gayle Dubowski, 20, of Carol Stream

  • Daniel Parmenter, 20, of Elmhurst

No. 8 - Chicago, Cultural Epicenter
No. 7 - Chicago On Trial
No. 6 - Chicago's 2016 Olympic Fever
No. 5 - Chicago's Violent Year
No. 4 - Budget Crunch