Michigan shootings suspect commits suicide
By TOM COYNE July 8, 2011 6:20AM
This photo provided by the Grand Rapids police shows 34-year-old Rodrick Dantzler , who police are searching for in connection with shootings at two homes in Grand Rapid, Mich. that left seven dead, including a child, on Thursday, July 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Grand Rapids Police via The Grand Rapids Press)
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A gunman opened fire in two Michigan homes Thursday, killing his daughter, ex-girlfriend and five other people before leading police on a high-speed chase and taking hostages inside a stranger’s home.
The five-hour standoff ended when he killed himself as authorities were telling him how to surrender.
The hostages were released unharmed, and 34-year-old Rodrick Shonte Dantzler died at the scene of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, police said.
The manhunt for Dantzler began earlier in the day after four people were found dead in one Grand Rapids home and three were discovered in another across town. Two of the dead were children.
“It makes no sense to try to rationalize it, what the motives were,” Police Chief Kevin Belk said. “You just cannot come up with a logical reason why someone takes seven peoples’ lives.”
Following the discovery of the bodies, Dantzler led officers on a high-speed chase, crashed his car and took hostages he did not know inside a random home, police said. Dozens of officers with guns drawn cordoned off a neighborhood near a small lake in the northern part of the city and shut down nearby Interstate 96.
During the standoff, 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.
But he changed course after several hours and asked how he could surrender. Belk said officers were talking with him on the phone about how to turn himself in when they heard the gunshot.
“At the time the incident occurred, he was talking about coming out, giving himself up,” Belk said. “Obviously he decided at the last moment to fire the gun.”
The names of the dead were not immediately released. Autopsies were scheduled for Friday.
Records show Dantzler was released from state prison in 2005 after serving time for assault less than murder. A spokesman for the prison system said he had not been under state supervision since then.
At one point during the police chase, Danztler drove an SUV across a wide grassy median on the interstate and then went the wrong way down the highway while more than a dozen squad cars pursued him. Belk said he crashed the vehicle while driving down an embankment into a wooded area of the highway, which remained closed hours later.
Two other people were shot when Dantzler fired at police during the chase, but their wounds were not considered life-threatening. One man was injured in what Belk described as a “road rage” attack after Dantzler fired through the rear window of the vehicle. A woman was hit in the arm in a separate shooting.
Carrie Colacchio lives a little more than a mile away from the hostage situation and said she was driving in the area when the suspect’s vehicle blew through.
“I look in my rearview mirror and see this big white SUV coming up behind me,” she said. “The only way to get out of it was to push the gas pedal.”
She couldn’t turn off the road or slow down or go any other way and reached about 85 mph.
“I almost got smacked,” she said. “I had to go up on the curb.”
Neighbors said police congregated at Dantzler’s home a few miles away after the shootings.
Sonia Bergers said Dantzler lived with a woman she assumed was his wife and their daughter, a girl who appeared to be about 10 years old.
Mary Lahuis and her husband had just returned home after having coffee at a nearby fast-food restaurant when police began running down their street with guns, yelling at people to get in their homes.
Of Dantzler she said: “You would see him going up and down the street. And you’d hear him going up and down the street.”
Sandra Powney lives across the street from one of the homes where the shootings happened and said she had seen Dantzler at the ranch house, where a couple has lived for more than 20 years with two adult daughters.
Powney said she had been at home all day and did not realize anyone had been killed until police arrived at the cul-de-sac in the midafternoon.
“For a while we couldn’t come outside,” she said. “They didn’t know if there was someone still inside the house.”
Lisa Schenden lives with her husband and their children two blocks from the home where four people were killed. She said the homeowners are a couple whose daughter has a daughter with the suspect.
Schenden said she did not hear the shooting either, but she saw the suspect and his daughter drive up to the house earlier in the day.
“Just last night, my kids went over there swimming, and I went over with them,” she said.
Outside the two-story, wood-sided home where the three people were killed, neighbors stood in clumps Thursday evening, quietly talking as investigators scoured the house. As officers left, people disappeared indoors and a single police car remained on the block.
The only indication of anything unusual was three bouquets of flowers on the porch steps.
Associated Press writers John Flesher and Kathy Barks Hoffman in Grand Rapids and Corey Williams and David N. Goodman in Detroit contributed to this report.