Gunman Opens Fire At Northern Illinois University; At Least 15 injured; Gunman Dead

(CBS/AP) A gunman opened fire in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University on Thursday, injuring at least 15 people before he killed himself, authorities and the school said.

"Police are confirming that the shooter is dead by a self-inflicted gunshot," the school said on its Web site.

The university issued a statement on its Web site about an hour after the 3 p.m. shooting that "the immediate danger has passed. The gunman is no longer a threat."

Most students say university police and school officials responded quickly, and were on the scene within minutes, reports CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers.

Kishwaukee Community Hospital spokeswoman Theresa Komitas told WLS-TV in Chicago it received 17 victims all with wounds from the shooting or flying debris. Three are reported in critical condition, eight are stable and six are in good condition. There are no reported fatalities.

Student journalists at the school's Northern Television Center reported that there were 18 victims, two of them fatalities, including the gunman, reports CBS affiliate WBBM-TV.

Northern Illinois students are talking about threats scrawled on a bathroom wall last December that include racial slurs and references to the Virginia Tech shootings earlier in the year, reports Bowers. The campus was shut down for a day while university police determined there was no imminent threat. There is no word yet on if there is any connection with today's shooting.

CBS News anchor Katie Couric spoke over the phone to a witness who was in the lecture hall when the gunman entered. She asked to only be identified by her first name, "Katie."

"He started shooting. I just immediately dropped down to the ground," the student, Katie, said. Couric asked her if she saw the weapon. "It looked like it was long to me. He just would shoot one shot at a time...probably a rifle."

George Gaynor, a senior geography student, who was in Cole Hall when the shooting happened, told the student newspaper the Northern Star that the shooter was "a skinny white guy with a stocking cap on."

He described the scene immediately following the incident as terrifying and chaotic.

"Some girl got hit in the eye, a guy got hit in the leg," Gaynor said outside just minutes after the shooting occurred. "It was like five minutes before class ended too."

Witnesses said the young man carried a shotgun and a pistol. Student Edward Robinson told WLS that the gunman appeared to target students in one part of the lecture hall.

"It was almost like he knew who he wanted to shoot," Robinson said. "He knew who and where he wanted to be firing at."

All classes were canceled Thursday night and the 25,000-student campus was closed on Friday. Students were urged to call their parents "as soon as possible" and were offered counseling at any residence hall, according to the school Web site.

Dominique Broxton, 22, a student from Oak Park, told the Chicago Tribune she could see two wounded students from her dorm room.

"The ambulance took away two students on the ground right outside my dorm," she said. "I don't know them. They looked bloody."

She said she saw a lot of confusion. "Students were running. People really didn't know what was going on. There is an intercom system inside the dorm. Someone came on and stated that someone had been caught. They said they caught the shooter and that we should remain calm and stay in our rooms. I am in my room now."

Katie Wagner, a student who was inside the classroom, tells WBBM that there were 70 students inside room 101 at Cole Hall when the shooting happened. She said the gunman entered from a side door near the front of the lecture hall and started to fire shots.

She described the gunman as white, tall, skinny and wearing a black tee shirt - and maybe something red.

The school was closed for one day during final exam week in December after campus police found threats, including racial slurs and references to shootings earlier in the year at Virginia Tech, scrawled on a bathroom wall in a dormitory. Police determined after an investigation that there was no imminent threat and the campus was reopened.

The shooting was the fourth at a U.S. school within a week.

On Feb. 8, a woman shot two fellow students to death before committing suicide at Louisiana Technical College in Baton Rouge. In Memphis, Tenn., a 17-year-old is accused of shooting and critically wounding a fellow student Monday during a high school gym class, and the 15-year-old victim of a shooting at an Oxnard, Calif., junior high school has been declared brain dead.

A viewer who e-mailed WBBM said that her brother was in the lecture hall where the shooting happened. "He says that the gunmen was a white male dressed in all black. He kicked the door in and opened fire. My brother dove under the desk, and popped his head up to see the gunmen was reloading. He grabbed his girlfriend's hand and ran to the library where they been in lockdown since."