Claire Papoulias provided a harrowing account of what it was like to be on the Michigan State University campus during Monday’s mass shooting. With images and sounds still fresh in her mind, Claire and her mother Natalie agreed to an interview on Tuesday morning’s “Today” show.
Claire, a sophomore, shared that she was attending a history class in Berkey Hall when the gunman burst through the classroom door and began indiscriminately shooting at the approximately 20 students in the room.
The gunman, now identified as Anthony Dwayne McRae, 43, “came through the back [door] and just started attacking people,” said Papoulias.
Claire also noted that heroic students risked their lives to break windows and create opportunities for others to escape as the gunman silently continued the shooting rampage. Two students in that room died.
The New York Post quoted Claire as saying that “some classmates jumped into action, trying to help everyone … including some who raced to close doors and others who broke windows to allow others to escape” despite the risk.
Claire added: “If it weren’t for my classmates helping everyone, I don’t think that we would have all made it. There was a boy in my class, and he was waiting outside the window, and he was catching people … so that they wouldn’t fall and couldn’t run away.”
Papoulias noted that after hearing gunshots behind her, she “dropped to the floor with all my classmates, and someone was yelling that there was a shooter. At that moment, I thought I was gonna die. I was so scared.”
RTM previously reported that soon after the shooting, police released photos of a black male suspect and asked the public to report information to a tipline.
The posting of the picture and “black male suspect” description angered many on social media, leading some to post pictures of “random white males to mislead the public.”
However, an area resident recognized the man in the photos and called the tipline to alert officials. The suspect shot himself when confronted by officers.
Claire told “Today”: “And I’m so grateful that he was there to help people out,” adding that once she was out, she “just ran for my life.”
While pinned down and unable to move to safety, Claire called her mom, Natalie Papoulias. Natalie told NBC that she “heard about three gunshots and screaming” in the background.
“It was my worst nightmare,” Natalie said, adding she rushed to her car to get to the campus.
Natalie shared that she is very thankful her daughter was not injured in the attack, saying, “I mean, I feel like she literally like dodged a bullet.”
Claire noted that her boyfriend would usually have been at Berkey Hall to pick her up but did not do so on Monday because a friend was sick.
“I think if my boyfriend was there, he would’ve definitely gotten injured,” Claire said, calling it “a miracle that he was not there.”
MSU Police Intern Deputy Chief Chris Rozman noted:
“We have absolutely no idea what the motive was at this point,” but he did report that McRae was not a student and “had no affiliation to the university.”
The shooting rampage left three students dead and five critically injured. The injured are receiving treatment at Sparrow Medical Center in Lansing.
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