GRAND RAPIDS (WWJ/AP) – Following Thursday’s frightening shooting rampage that left 7 people dead before the gunman, Rodrick Shonte Dantzler, killed himself, Mayor George Heartwell says all of Grand Rapids is grieving.
“Neighborhoods traumatized, people all over the city deeply distressed,” he said.
“We are a caring community and I call you today to care for your neighbor, talk to each other, reassure one another, pray for the friends and the family members of the victims,” said Heartwell.
Thursday afternoon, Dantzler left behind a pair of bloody crime scenes – the result of an unexplained rampage in which he killed his daughter, an ex-girlfriend and five others.
Hear more from the news conference with Mayor Hartwell and Grand Rapids Police Chief Belk:
“It makes no sense to try to rationalize it, what the motives were,” Grand Rapids Police Chief Kevin Belk said. “You just cannot come up with a logical reason why someone takes seven peoples’ lives.”
Chief Belk didn’t specifically state a motive, but in identifying the victims it appears that Dantzler, was seeking to exact some sort of revenge or retribution on ex-girlfriends.
According to police, the victims in included the gunman’s own daughter, 12-year-old Camry Marie Heron Dantzler and her mother 29-year-old Jennifer Marie Heron, along with her mother and father, plus another ex-girlfriend and her daughter and sister.
Autopsies were scheduled for Friday.
Records show that Dantzler was released from state prison in 2005, after serving time for assault less than murder. A spokesman for the prison system said Dantzler had not been under state supervision since then.
Police initially got a 911 call early Thursday afternoon from someone saying that a man had admitted to killing three people, Belk said. Police went to Dantzler’s home, but he wasn’t there and officers couldn’t find him.
It wasn’t long before authorities got a call from a woman who said her relatives had been shot. Next came a call about someone finding four gunshot victims at another house.
Officers soon found three bodies in a home on Plainfield Avenue. An hour later, they discovered the other four across town in a ranch-style house on a cul-de-sac called Brynell Court.
Two of the dead were children.
Thursday evening, Dantzler made his way toward a nearby single-family home, firing several shots as he forced his way inside and took hostages he did not know, police said. Dozens of officers with guns drawn cordoned off the neighborhood, near a small lake in the northern part of the city, as authorities shut down nearby I-96.
During the next five hours, Dantzler fired sporadically at officers and inside the house. He vacillated between threatening to shoot the hostages and pleading with police to take him out, even asking negotiators whether there were snipers outside the home and where he should stand, Belk said.
“The suspect fired at our officers many times throughout the night,” he said. “Even in the home, there was an exchange of gunfire. He fired as they made entry to the house.”
Officers had gone inside to protect the hostages, and remained in the house throughout the negotiations with Dantzler. He changed course after several hours and asked how he could surrender. Belk said officers were talking with him about how to turn himself in when they heard the gunshot.
Speaking live on WWJ Newsradio 950, Wood Radio reporter Rod Kackley said, at one point, police thought Dantzler was giving up.
“He was walking out with the people. Police thought he was gonna come out with his hands up. They were giving him instructions to keep his hands in the air, the two hostages were walking in front of him,” Kackley said.
“All of a sudden what they thought was a cell phone turned out to be a gun. He pointed it at his head and shot himself,” Kackley said.
“Obviously, we’re extremely disappointed at the outcome,” Belk said. “We would much rather have had the suspect surrender and have him in custody.
On neighbor of Dantzler said was shocked to hear what he had done.
“Just somebody that you’re so closed to and that happens. You just don’t ever think that that could happen to somebody you know,” she said.
A vigil was set for 8:30 p.m. Friday at Ford Museum. Candles, flowers and teddy bears grace the porch of the Plainfield Avenue home where three were slain.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.