Police: Witness who said MSU shooter beaten up by students 'not credible'

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

The witness who told police that the Michigan State University shooter had been beaten up weeks before the Feb. 13 shooting rampage was investigated by detectives and found not to be credible, MSU Police Chief Chris Rozman said Friday.

The 91-page preliminary police report showed that an MSU sergeant spoke on Feb. 14 with an unidentified man who came to the police station, saying he knew the identified shooter, Anthony McRae, having met him in 2018 at a Lansing community gathering. The man said he last spoke with McRae three weeks earlier and indicated that McRae had been beaten up by students in downtown East Lansing, and suspected that might have been McRae's motive for the shooting.

"During the investigation, our detectives spoke to an individual who claimed to know the shooter and alleged that he may have been beaten up by students," Rozman said Friday via email. "Our detectives thoroughly investigated this claim and determined with certainty that the information is not credible, the individual did not actually know the shooter, and the incident he described never occurred."

Rozman made the statement 24 hours after MSU released a preliminary report of the investigation into the MSU tragedy when a shooter identified as McRae opened fire at Berkey Hall and the MSU Union, killing three university students and wounding five others, before taking his own life.

The report was released to The Detroit News as part of a public records request. MSU police and university officials either didn't respond Thursday to requests for comment or declined comment on the police report. 

Michigan State University then-Deputy Police Chief Chris Rozman gives updates about the Feb. 13 campus shooting on Feb. 16, 2023. Rozman said Friday a man who was interviewed Feb. 14 and claimed that shooter Anthony McRae had a run-in with students a few weeks prior to the shooting rampage was "not credible."

During a telephone interview, Rozman said that he was told by his investigators that multiple detectives spoke with the individual soon after he came into the MSU police department on Feb. 14. He did not know when the officers followed up with the individual.

"They deemed with certainty that the individual was not credible, and the individual did not know the shooter as he claimed, and the incident never occurred," Rozman said. "They quickly determined it was not relevant and not related."

The MSU police chief declined to elaborate on why the individual was deemed not credible.

"Hypothetically speaking, if we talk to somebody with a significant mental illness and the information they present is nonsensical," Rozman said, "it's pretty obvious based on their statement alone and their lack of detail and lack of information that it's not credible from the very beginning. But we always do our due diligence and follow up to determine that."

The investigative follow-up was not included in the preliminary police report. Rozman said he did not know why.

Rozman added that the follow-up investigation's not being included in their preliminary investigation is a good example of the downside of a partial report being released before a full report is finished, since there are still edits underway and the investigation is still ongoing.

"It's frustrating to us that information is being released that we have not had a chance to vet or explain," he said.

On Thursday, The News asked an MSU police spokeswoman whether the witness was credible and whether the alleged incident prompted a police report. Rozman said the staff member had left for vacation at 4 p.m., and staff are told not to reply to media after they leave.

"The stress that we have been operating under the past three months is taking a toll," the police chief said, "so we are instructing people to take time for themselves and focus on their wellness and unless there is a critical incident, we are not going to bother our people after hours ... just because of the long hours and the work that they have been putting in and the effect on people's health and wellness that we need to take and make a priority."