Shooting reaction: Fear, shock on CMU campus

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News

Nasienka Francis of Grand Blanc planned to pick up her son from Central Michigan University on Friday afternoon after he completed an exam, but when he texted her about a shooting at the university, she “dropped everything.”

She quickly left in her car to get to the college. Even though he told her he was safe in his dorm room, her initial reaction was “panic and fear,” Francis said.

“You know what just happened in Florida,” she said, referencing a school shooting that left 17 dead. “I can honestly say I’ve been praying for those families and those children, and then all of a sudden it gets real because it’s right here at home.”

Police on Friday night still were searching for 19-year-old James Eric Davis Jr., a student at the university, who is suspected in a double homicide in the CMU residence hall where he lived. Dead are his parents, identified by CMU police as James Eric Davis Sr. and Diva Jeneen Davis of Plainfield, Illinois.

The shootings shook up the community and rattled parents who had planned on an uneventful pickup of their students before the spring break holiday.

Police hunt for shooter who killed 2 at CMU

Venita Weekes of Detroit was already driving to Mount Pleasant to pick up her freshman daughter for spring break when she called her daughter, who told her about the shooting and that she was safe.

Her new plans for spring break with her daughter: “I’m going to hug her for the next five days.”

Local businesses around Mount Pleasant were fully or partially closed as the shooter remained on the loose. A McDonald’s near campus was serving customers through its drive-thru but had closed its lobby.

Mary Albaugh, 20, lives on South Franklin Street just north of campus where the suspected shooter was thought to have fled. She said she and her roommate were so scared, they locked every door and haven’t left the house since.

“I woke up at 10 a.m. ... family and friends were asking if I was OK. When I checked Twitter and listened to the voice mails CMU’s alert system left I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

Albaugh, a third-year student at CMU, said her classes had already been canceled in advance of spring break.

“I was so glad I wasn’t in a classroom ... we started seeing cops everywhere, a couple officers or SWAT members came to our door to ask if we had seen anything, which made it more real,” she said.

Dozens of law enforcement gathered outside of the Campbell Hall dormitory Friday afternoon, including a state police forensic unit that was analyzing the crime scene. A police helicopter flew overhead scanning for the suspect as campus remained on full lockdown.

Princess Macon, a freshman, said the shooting was “shocking” but said the university had been providing regular updates through text messages throughout the lockdown.

“I never thought that something like this was going to happen,” she said. “It’s just crazy to me.”

Macon lives on north campus but was stuck inside the Bovee University Center all day, heading the warning to stay inside while the shooter remained at large.

Venita Weekes of Detroit checks her phone for updates on the shooting at CMU, where her daughter and other students remained on lockdown March 2, 2018. She is at the Comfort Inn near campus, where university asked parents to gather.

“I’ve been cool with it because of the danger, but it is a little annoying because I want to go home,” she said.

Gino Soave, a retired police officer, praised the police and university response to the shooting, which prompted him and his wife to drive nearly three hours from Grosse Ile to campus, where their daughter was safe and “hunkered down in a residence hall.”

Soave said he was worried but “comfortable” seeing the organized reaction and clear directions from authorities.

“This event may not have been preventable,” he said. “At the end of the day, you grieve for people who have passed, but you look at all the lives they probably saved by their quick response and good instructions.”