Fulton and Division - photo from Tom Clyde
GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM/AP) - Grand Rapids Police Chief Kevin Belk said that Rodrick Shonte Dantzler was a "troubled individual" who was out hunting people down Thursday afternoon in Grand Rapids.
Dantzler shot four members of the Heeren family at one home and three members of the Emkens family at another, before wounding two people during a rampage through Grand Rapids. Dantzler had previosly been married to Jennifer Heeren and was the father of Kamrie Heeren-Dantzler. Both were killed, along with Jennifer's parents Rebecca and Thomas. Kimberlee Emkens was a former girlfriend of Dantzler's. She, her sister, and her niece were all killed at that home.
Chief Belk said that Dantzler was armed with a .40 caliber gun with more than one magazine and that it was obvious to him that the shooting spree was premeditated. Police are still not sure what triggered the event.
After killing the Heerens and the Emkens early in the afternoon, police were called to the corner of Grandville Avenue and Martha SW on a possible road rage shooting. Dantzler had shot at Robert Poore in a traffic jam and the bullet had struck Poore in the face. Poore told police that the bullet ricocheted off his nose because of the titanium plate that was inserted during cancer treatment as a child.
At about 7:00pm, police were called by a driver heading southbound on Plainfield Avenue heading into downtown that Dantzler was following her. At the corner of Division and Fulton, Dantzler fired one shot at the woman, striking her. Dantzler also fired on Grand Rapids Police and they returned fire with no one being injured. The woman did suffer minor injuries. She had been acquainted with Dantzler.
From there, Dantzler led police on a chase through Grand Rapids. Dantzler and police exchanged gunfire near the corner of Lydia and Eastern and police were able to flatten Dantzler's tires at Lyon and Diamond NE. Dantzler continued on with flat tires onto westbound I-196 and then onto northbound US-131. Grand Rapids Police Officers with shotguns were in place on bridges at Leonard and Ann Street. Each position took one shot at Dantzler's vehicle as it passed the bridges but failed to slow him.
Because of the flattened tires, higher speeds were never reached during the chase.
Dantzler continued on to I-96 and headed eastbound in the westbound lanes. He eventually crashed near Soft Water Lake near the Plainfield Avenue exit into a wooded area. He fled on foot and forced entry into a home on Rickman Street, where he took three people hostage. After taking the hostages, Dantzler called 911 to inform police he had hostages and demands.
Throughout the evening, Dantzler requested drinks and matches and threatened the hostages. One woman was released around 9:00pm. Around 11:00pm, police began instructing Dantzler on how to go about surrendering.
Dantzler took his own life with a gunshot to his own head at about 11:30pm. The two remaining hostages were unhurt.
Police Chief Kevin Belk called the day a very difficult one for the city and police. Mayor George Heartwell said, "We may have been shaken to our roots, but our roots are deep," and that Grand Rapids will still be identified as a growing and vibrant city.