One dead, one injured
Friday night apartment shooting leaves community with unanswered questions
It was the shot that no one heard.
At 8:48 p.m. Friday evening, police responded to the report of a shooting on the 200 block of Cedar Street. They arrived to find two students in their apartment: one had suffered a single gunshot wound, and the other had several, although police will not say how many.
The gunman was gone, vanished into the night. He has yet to be found.
One student was released from Sparrow Hospital early Saturday morning.
The other never left.
At 9:23 a.m. Saturday, hospitality business sophomore Dominique “D.J.” Nolff was pronounced dead, after remaining in critical condition throughout the night. He was 20 years old.
The circumstances surrounding Nolff’s death remain largely unknown, including the biggest two questions — who killed him and why.
In the days since the shooting, students and officials alike still are trying to make sense of what happened.
For many, the occurrence left them feeling unsafe in the area.
Theatre sophomore Kendall Kotcher said the situation made her realize how much students often take their own safety both on and off campus for granted.
“I was stunned,” Kotcher said. “I’ve always felt safe, on and even around campus.
“You tend to think these things wont happen to you, but when the proximity is so close, it really shakes you up.”
Several neighbors, both in the Cedar Street apartment itself and other buildings surrounding it, said they did not hear a gunshot or see anything suspicious.
Many were completely unaware of the situation until they received a university alert a more than two hours later.
Economics junior Raunak Navalakha, who lives across the hall from the apartment where the shooting occurred, said he was asleep and did not hear anything at the time. He said he did not wake up until after shots were fired.
One neighbor, who declined to give his name because the suspect still is at large, said he often overheard disagreements from within the apartment where the shooting took place.
East Lansing police said they do not believe the incident was random. For now, all other details are secret or unknown.
To celebrate Nolff’s memory, MSU’s Black Student Alliance gathered Sunday afternoon for a candlelight vigil.
About 20 students and friends of Nolff formed a circle on Waters Edge Drive and lit candles to remember and commemorate Nolff’s life.
Some spoke on behalf of Nolff’s memory, while others who did not know him shared their condolences with his loved ones.
Black Student Alliance president and journalism senior Tyler Clifford, who organized the vigil, said he thought it was important to have the ceremony near the place where the shooting occurred to help restore peace in the area.
“It was all very impromptu,” he said. “I just figured that something needed to be done. I just knew there had to be some type of positive enforcement going on.”
Although she did not personally know Nolff, criminal justice sophomore Sherronia Dorseywalker said she thought it was important to show her support for his friends and loved ones.
“Even though he’s not my friend or a family member … I can still help out as in bringing condolences to (his) family,” Dorseywalker said.
The last to know
Following the incident, many students felt uneasy about the delayed reaction in the form of a university-wide alert, which went out to students at about 11 p.m., nearly two hours after the shooting took place.
Kotcher was in her room in Snyder Hall when the alert was sent out. She said seeing rumors about what had happened on social media before receiving the alert left her feeling vulnerable.
“There was no warning or lockdown or anything,” Kotcher said. “I didn’t even know it happened until I saw a news link on Facebook a couple hours later.”
Kotcher said she thought there should have been some kind of warning prior to the alert so she and other students could take caution.
“A shooting happened across the street from me, and a lot of neighbors didn’t even know until the next morning,” she said.
MSU police, the party responsible for dispersing MSU alerts, said in a statement that the department held off on the alert for so long because the incident had to be confirmed with East Lansing police.
Urban planning junior Nick Tafelsky said the delay was unnecessary and could ultimately hurt students in the long run.
“The lack of communication between the East Lansing police and the MSU police is embarrassing,” Tafelsky said. “With all of the school shootings as of late, it’s frustrating and terrifying that it took two hours to get this information out to students.”
Still at large
East Lansing police have not yet made any arrests or publicly named any suspects in their investigation.
Police described the suspect as a black male between the age of 20-25 with an average height and build. He was last seen wearing tan pants, a black coat and black shoes.
University officials have expressed their support for East Lansing police as the investigation progresses.
“MSU stands by to assist the East Lansing Police Department, who is leading the investigation and have said the incident is not a random act,” MSU spokesman Kent Cassella said in a statement. “For those in the campus community who may be personally affected by this tragedy, resources are available at the MSU Counseling Center.”
East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett said police will continue working to locate a suspect and bring closure to those affected by the shooting.
“It’s a terrible and senseless tragedy for our community and for Michigan State University, and my thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the victims and those who were impacted by this act of gun violence,” Triplett said.
Anyone with information regarding the incident is encouraged to contact East Lansing police at 517-319-6897.
Staff writers Geoff Preston, Kary Askew Garcia, Olivia Dimmer and Katie Abdilla contributed to this report.