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Investigation of shooter leads to more questions

DeKALB - While investigators continue to pursue leads as to why 27-year-old Steven Kazmierczak stormed into a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University on Thursday and started shooting - killing himself and five students, as well as injuring 16 others - university administrators announced Saturday that classes will resume Feb. 25. Faculty have been asked by the university to return Tuesday to undergo training and counseling to help students, and a memorial service is scheduled for Feb. 24 at the Convocation Center, NIU Spokes-woman Melanie Magara said Saturday during a news conference. “The eyes of the world are focused on us,” NIU President John Peters said in a statement. “An act of violence will not define us, and we need to take care of ourselves and others.” Cole Hall, where the shootings took place, will remain closed through the remaining school year, Magara said. NIU would like to create a scholarship fund in honor of the slain students and is also discussing how to build a permanent on-campus memorial, administrators said. Counseling and support will be offered to students, staff and faculty upon their return. Police presence will be increased on campus when students return, as the university plans further security measures, Magara said. But as the university moves toward resuming its schedule, and clues kept surfacing Saturday as law enforcement officials continued their investigation into Kazmierczak, many questions still remain. On Monday, Kazmierczak stayed for only 15 minutes at the room he booked at the Best Western DeKalb Inn & Suites before leaving, a Best Western employee said Saturday - even though he had reservations for Monday through Friday. He left after reportedly receiving a phone call. Kazmierczak then moved to room 105 in the Travelodge next to the Best Western on Lincoln Highway, paying cash and only signing “Steven” to register for the room, Rupa Patel, wife of hotel manager Jay Patel, said Saturday. A laptop was found in Kazmierczak's room at the Travelodge, but the hard drive was missing, sources involved with the investigation said. Police also have questioned Jessica Baty, who reportedly was Kazmierczak's girlfriend. Baty, like Kazmierczak, was once a student in NIU's sociology department but is now enrolled at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Magara said. Baty reportedly has told investigators that she and Kazmierczak did not have any kind of fight or argument before Kazmierczak left Champaign for DeKalb three days before the shootings, investigators said Saturday. Authorities on Friday also found a duffel bag with the zippers glued shut that was left behind by Kazmierczak. The bag contained a small amount of ammunition, DeKalb Police Lt. Gary Spangler said Saturday. Described as thoughtful yet quiet by NIU students and his former professors, Kazmierczak was avidly interested in guns, acquaintances said. In the last few years, he purchased several guns but often sold them to other people, according to sources close to the investigation. Authorities have said that the guns Kazmierczak used in Thursday's shooting were bought legally and that he had a state police-issued FOID, a firearms owner's identification card, which is required in Illinois to own a gun. An undated picture found on a MySpace page shows Kazmierczak wearing a T-shirt with a pistol on top of an American flag, barely covering his heavily tattooed arms. Jason Dunavan, a tattoo artist in Champaign, said he spent hours as recently as last month creating tattoos for Kazmierczak. His work included an image of the macabre puppet from the horror movie “Saw” riding a tricycle through a pool of blood with images of several bleeding cuts in the background. Dunavan said he was so proud of the tattoo that he enlarged a photo of it and placed it on a wall in his shop - a move he is now rethinking. “I don't know if I still want that picture on my wall,” said Dunavan, who also described Kazmierczak as timid and apologetic. Kazmierczak had a short-lived stint as a prison guard that ended abruptly when he didn't show up for work. He was in the Army for about six months in 2001-02, but he told a friend he'd gotten a psychological discharge. Kazmierczak also had a history of mental illness and had become erratic in the past two weeks after he stopped taking his medication, NIU Police Chief Donald Grady has said. A former employee at a Chicago psychiatric treatment center said Kazmierczak had been placed there after high school by his parents. He used to cut himself and had resisted taking his medications, she said. The investigation into a motive behind Kazmierczak's attack continues among NIU Police, DeKalb Police, DeKalb County Sheriff's Office, the FBI, the Illinois State Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Genoa Journal Reporter Bill Braksick and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reporter Benji Feldheim can be reached at bfeldheim@daily-chronicle.com.

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