EAST LANSING – Anthony McRae, the suspected Michigan State University shooter, threatened local businesses and claimed to be working with 20 accomplices in a note he was carrying Monday night, police said Thursday.
Authorities quickly dismissed the claim of accomplices after speaking with McRae’s father on the night of the shooting. But they now believe the note, which also mentioned MSU as a target, may shed some light on his motive.
It appears McRae “felt slighted” by the local businesses because he had been “asked to leave” them at some point, State Police Lt. Rene Gonzalez told reporters Thursday morning after a media briefing at MSU.
“And I think that, along with maybe his mental health issues, is what caused him to finally just go off the rails.”
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Along with the note, authorities said McRae was carrying two handguns and ammunition when he killed himself Monday night after the campus shootings as police approached him. McRae had passed a background check allowing him to purchase the guns but had not properly registered them, according to police.
Police have not released McRae’s two-page handwritten note, but Gonzalez said there were five to seven businesses “on his list.” The note also referenced a local church and a Meijer Distribution Center in Delta Township, where McRae previously worked, authorities said Thursday.
Meijer did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday or Wednesday, when Bridge Michigan had first inquired about McRae’s prior employment.
Police say they found the note in McRae’s wallet after he fatally shot himself on Monday night at Lake Lansing and Larch roads in Lansing, about four miles from campus, where police say he had killed three students and injured five others.
All five injured students remain at Sparrow Hospital, but one was upgraded from “critical” to “stable” condition on Thursday morning, MSU Board of Trustees Chair Rema Vasser told reporters.
Authorities located McRae on Monday night nearly four hours after his crimes, but less than a half hour after they had released a surveillance camera image of him, prompting a 911 call from a local resident who reported seeing someone matching the description.
Two Lansing police officers, responding to the call, were the first to stop McRae. They exited their vehicles about 20 feet from McRae and asked him to show his hands, but McRae instead shot himself without saying anything, Gonzalez said.
Earlier this week, police in Ewing, New Jersey, disclosed that McRae’s note also included threats against local schools in that area.
McRae “did have some connections” to New Jersey, but that was years ago, said MSU Deputy Police Chief Chris Rozman. Authorities are also investigating a claim that McRae had previously applied but been turned down for a job at Michigan State, Rozman told reporters.
But detectives “are still not sure” about McRae’s exact motive for the MSU shooting, and whether mental health issues “amplified” his frustration with schools and businesses mentioned in the note, Rozman said.
Using footage from on- and off-campus surveillance cameras, authorities were able to piece together McRae’s route from MSU to the location where he was shot, which is near the home he shares with his father.
McRae’s father, who is cooperating with authorities, told them Monday night that his son had no friends and rarely left his room, prompting authorities to dismiss the note’s claim that McRae had 20 people helping him, according to Rozman.
McRae escaped campus on foot and is believed to have walked the whole way to Lake Lansing, Gonzalez said. It’s likely he had walked to MSU as well, but Gonzalez said they also found two local bus tickets in his pocket, which they are continuing to investigate.
Despite other locations mentioned in the note, MSU appears to have been McRae’s primary target on Monday night, Gonzalez said.
“He knew what he wanted to do.”
When he killed himself, McRae was carrying two 9 millimeter handguns, along with eight loaded ammunition magazines, two empty magazines and a small pouch with 50 used bullets, authorities said.
Working with federal authorities, local police confirmed that McRae purchased the guns legally but did not properly register them. It’s not clear if he had concealed pistol permits.
McRae did pass a required background check that included a review of his criminal record for any felonies and known mental health issues, which allowed him to obtain a purchase permit to buy the guns, Gonzalez said.
But after purchasing the guns, he did not register them with the local sheriffs’ department within 10 days, as required, Gonzalez said.
McRae was arrested in 2019 and initially charged with a felony for illegally carrying a concealed weapon. Former Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon’s office eventually reduced the charge to a misdemeanor, a decision she defended earlier this week as routine.
A felony firearm conviction would have prevented McRae from legally purchasing guns like those he was found with on Monday night.
“We would all hope that a prosecutor would uphold the law as it’s written,” Lansing Police Chief Ellery Sosebee said Thursday.
“There’s always room for some discretion, however that one will be scrutinized for a long time, I’m sure.”