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Student responds to panic at IM East night of shooting

February 14, 2023
An overhead view of the first responders that arrived to MSU Union during the response of a shooting on Michigan State’s campus on the night Feb. 13, 2023.
An overhead view of the first responders that arrived to MSU Union during the response of a shooting on Michigan State’s campus on the night Feb. 13, 2023. —
Photo by Audrey Richardson | The State News

James Madison College senior Jack Harrison’s intramural basketball game at the IM East recreation center was abruptly interrupted Monday evening when the campus went into shelter-in-place, responding to a mass shooting which has killed three students and, at the time of publication, left five more in critical condition.

At first, Harrison says no one thought much of it, that they were expecting the game to resume. But before long, shots-fired was confirmed and everyone in the building moved into a lockdown inside the racquetball courts.

“You're in one of these racquetball courts, with strangers, in a room that has no windows,” Harrison said. “In a sense, you're feeling a little bit safer, but at the same time you get this sense of, ‘Oh my gosh, I literally am almost trapped in this room.’”

After about 30 minutes, Harrison said students and IM East staff grew concerned about police scanner traffic saying the shooter was outside of their building. Harrison now knows that was untrue, but in the moment the fear was real.

“Once we got that now false report of a shot right by us, that’s when the room’s panic went from ‘I’m scared’ to ‘now my life is in danger ,’” Harrison said. “You could feel the shift.”

The IM staff began instructing students to line up near the rear exit doors and said to “bolt if you hear shots.” There was worry between students about what they would do, Harrison said. Students asked if “it’s better to be in the building rather than leaving if the shooter is still on campus?”

Before they could debate for too long, people started running out and IM staff began yelling “get out right now.” Harrison said he still isn’t sure exactly what spurred the sudden exodus. There were no confirmed shots fired in that area.

Harrison’s first instinct was to get into a car and get as far from campus as possible. He says that as he sprinted into the nearby Wharton Center parking lot, he spotted a friend.

“I run into my friend, I see him and I'm like, ‘Oh my god, let's get into your car,’” Harrison said. “We got in the car with another one of our friends we ran into, and then a freshman that we didn't know and then we just go as far off campus as we can.” 

They ended up in a friend’s parent’s basement in a neighboring town, where they waited for the all clear, still listening to the scanner.

Tuesday morning, Harrison said that he and his peers are still in shock, unable to understand the shooting or forget the fear they felt.

“I don't think a lot of people have totally processed everything,” Harrison said. “Because, you just, you go into a different switch. You just go into a survival mode.”

Outside of his basketball games, Harrison works as the Chief of Staff to the Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, overseeing a staff of students who provide services and support to their peers. Since the shooting, ASMSU has been working with the administration to expand its services and support some kind of return to normalcy in the coming weeks.


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