The Course of Reason

Shooter commits suicide after murdering 7, how should we react?

July 11, 2011

Last week there was a shooting in Grand Rapids, MI. Ellen Lundgren from CFI at Grand Valley State University takes a second to ask how skeptics should look at the event.

This post originally appeared on on July 8, 2011.

Yesterday afternoon began a long series of events where a man in Grand Rapids murdered seven people, and eventually took his own life. After watching Grand Rapids grow as a young, vibrant, and creative community, this is a shock to many in the area, including myself.

I witnessed the live public reaction on Twitter as people live tweeted what was being heard on the police scanners, and as new stations frantically tried to keep up camera coverage of car chases and crime scenes throughout the day.

Here is my summary of events as best as I can cover:

2-3pm - Rodrick Dantzler shot and killed an ex-girlfriend, her sister, and the ex’s 10 year old daughter (not his child) in one home. He then murdered his wife, 12 year old daughter, and two in-laws at their home across town.

Father of murdered child collapses at the news of his daughter's death. via

Father of murdered child collapses at the news of his daughter's death. via

7:08pm – A police chase pursues the suspect through downtown Grand Rapids and onto northbound U.S. 131, then eastbound I-96 in a different car than was earlier described as his. Police take gun fire, and a civilian bystander is injured in the arm by a bullet.

Police cruiser that managed to ram the suspects vehicle took fire in Downtown Grand Rapids. The officer was amazingly not hit. via 

Police cruiser that managed to ram the suspect's vehicle took fire in Downtown Grand Rapids. The officer was amazingly not hit. via

7:19pm – After leading the police on a highway chase at times crossing the median and driving into oncoming traffic, the suspect crashes his vehicle into the ditch and he fled on foot.

7:25pm – The suspect broke into a home near the highway and takes two hostages, a man and a woman. (Unknown at this time but there is also another female hiding in a closet in the home.) Negotiators are called to the scene and begin working to calm the suspect.

Home that the suspect entered and took hostages. via

Home that the suspect entered and took hostages. via

9:00pm - Dantzler demands Gatorade and cigarettes or he threatens to kill a hostage. One hostage retrieves the items for him and is released 18 minutes later.

9:37pm – Police indicate that Dantzler is snorting what is later found out to be cocaine, and he has an extended magazine for an automatic .40 caliber handgun.

11:10pm – Two of the original three hostages are still inside the house with Danztler. Police have cornered them to the back bedroom where the woman had been hiding in the closet. The woman is talking to Danztler with negotiators on a throw phone.

11:30pm – Police report that the two hostages have escaped safely after Danztler shot himself in the head.

View the complete timeline at Many other news sources covered this event, but this was the most complete coverage I could find and is what I followed live.

Now the question I want to ask the skeptic community is this: What should have happened? The police, obviously, wanted Danztler to come out alive to he can face trial for what he has done. Receive justice in the eyes of the law. Yet, many others in the community and those closely affected were happy and cheered at the news that he died.

This also relates closely with the worldwide response to Osama bin Laden’s death. Certainly there was a sigh of relief across the country, but can we, should we be happy at someone else’s death? I originally dismissed tackling this issue with the news for Osama bin Laden. But this hits a little closer to home for me as I attend school nearby and witnessed the helicopters involved in the police chase, and beyond being relieved, I don’t know how I should feel. This is something on which I cannot make up my mind.

Skeptics, what are your thoughts? How did you react to the news of Osama bin Laden? What do you think should have happened to Rodrick Dantzler?


About the Author: Ellen Lundgren

Ellen Lundgren's photo
Ellen Lundgren a member of CFI at Grand Valley State University and, a collaborative blog with an emphasis on student input.


#1 2cents (Guest) on Monday July 11, 2011 at 11:02am

I think the fact that it was suicide was overlooked. It's a different kind of death. While it is death, the situation is different, albeit similar to the Bin Laden reaction.

I think that people nearby or affected personally by this event, likely "sighed a relief" at the news.

I think people on the outside that follow it as a news story, something dramatic, and "watched" event, likely cheered for death.

I think we should do our best to not distract our judgments, because two things relate, and come to the wrong conclusions. A lot can be assumed if we are vague with our questions we pose.




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