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911 calls depict students desperately trying to barricade in unlocked classrooms during shooting

March 25, 2023
An FBI agent walks toward MSU Union during the response of a shooting on Michigan State’s campus on the night Feb. 13, 2023.
An FBI agent walks toward MSU Union during the response of a shooting on Michigan State’s campus on the night Feb. 13, 2023.

Content warning: This article contains explicit discussions of violence relating to the Feb. 13 mass shooting on Michigan State University's campus. 

A series of 911 calls from students inside Berkey Hall on the night of the February mass shooting, which left three dead and five critically injured, capture the chaotic moments from when the shooter entered Berkey Hall until officers arrive on the scene. No 911 calls from the MSU Union were obtained.

The audio files obtained by The State News depict callers hearing gunshots from nearby rooms, students inside the terrorized classroom attempting to aid victims and students trying to navigate doors that don’t lock to keep themselves barricaded. 

Despite guidance from dispatches to lock classroom doors, doors inside Berkey Hall are incapable of locking, leading students and faculty to resort to using desks to barricade themselves. The lack of classroom door locks has sparked conversations about safety and MSU announced it will prioritize adding new door locks to over 1,300 academic classrooms next fall. 

MSU Police and Public Safety have confirmed that the first 911 call from Berkey Hall came at 8:18 p.m. Officers entered the building two minutes later, police say. 

“We have some desks in front of the door,” the first caller, who says she's in room 113 tells dispatch. “There’s one, two, three, four, five, six windows and they’re all open … The door is slightly barricaded.”

Callers reported even trying to tie the door shut to help barricade.

“I’m not hearing anything else,” the caller said in a hushed tone. “My teacher is by the door, trying to tie it or something.”

Many inside of Berkey Hall fled through windows and across Grand River Avenue. Some callers reported uncertainty around if they could fit their bodies through the windows, which open inwards from the top.

“How big are those windows?” dispatch asks.

“Um, they’re not big,” the caller from room 113 said. “Our bodies can’t get out of them.”

Later, dispatchers begin to advise callers to get out of the room if possible.

A dispatcher asks one caller, “Can you guys get out of the room? Get out the window, get out of that building and just run?”

The caller says, “alright, got it,” before the line disconnects.

Students were instructed to report injuries while applying pressure and bandaging wounds to their fellow classmates as the shooter’s location remained unclear to officers.

The dispatcher asks a caller if someone was shot, to which the caller replies, “Yes, so many people were shot.” When the dispatch presses for more information, the caller says, “Yes, someone is literally bleeding in my face.”

“He’s bleeding out of the ear and mouth,” the caller, who was in room 114, said. “He’s unconscious right now, I have no idea (if he’s breathing.)”

Another call from room 114 comes from a friend of one of the victims, who begs the dispatcher to send help, as police hadn’t arrived in her classroom yet. 

The dispatcher asks if the victim is still breathing.

“No, I don’t think he’s breathing, please,” the caller responds, audibly crying.

The caller then confirms there were multiple victims in their classroom. The dispatcher then advises the caller to “try to help control bleeding” and tries again to get a description of the shooter, asking if he’s out of room 114.

“I don’t know!” the caller responds. “I don’t know where he went!”

The dispatch asks again for a description of the shooter, but the caller says she didn’t see his face.

“I looked down immediately and I ducked,” the caller said. “I have no idea.”

Another caller, who says she’s in room 113 before correcting herself and confirming she’s in room 135, said she heard shots from inside the classroom. The dispatcher asks if the shooter was currently shooting at the time of the call, and the caller responds, “No, but people were shot, please come, please come.”

“They shot inside our classroom,” the caller said. “They shot inside the classroom.”

The dispatcher asks again if the shooter shot inside the classroom, and the caller confirms, “yes, yes, yes.” The dispatcher asks if she saw the shooter, and the caller says she didn’t. The dispatcher asks if anyone in the classroom was hurt.

“Yes, yes, somebody was shot,” the caller responds. “I believe more than one person. Several shots, several shots.”

The dispatcher attempts to get answers about the status of victims and questions if the caller’s door is locked. The caller said she doesn’t know, and that people are holding the door shut.

Despite student testimony, shots were only fired in one classroom in Berkey Hall, MSU deputy spokesperson Dan Olsen confirmed to The State News on Saturday.

The audio files obtained by The State News depict only what happened in Berkey Hall that night. The shooter, however, moved from Berkey Hall to the Union, where he terrorized more students. Police have confirmed that the shooter entered the Union at 8:24 p.m., just six minutes after the first 911 call from Berkey Hall was placed. The shooter left the building two minutes later, at 8:26 p.m.

A timeline released by police and security camera footage obtained by The State News shows police arriving at the Union just one minute after the shooter left. 

The first emergency alert was not sent to students until 8:30 p.m., instructing students to shelter-in-place due to an active shooter. The all-clear wasn’t given until 12:38 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

The motive of the shooter, who police say has no known affiliation to the university, has not been confirmed. A note found on the shooter’s person, dated for Sunday, Feb. 12, stated that he was leading a group of 20 individuals in his acts of violence. However, investigators determined that the shooter acted alone and this claim is unfounded. 

MSU provides resources to students and faculty who were impacted by the mass shooting. Resources and services can be found online.

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