LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The man who killed three students and injured five more at Michigan State University before taking his own life struggled with mental illness that worsened after his mother’s death, family said.
“Mental illness is a real thing. We as the McRae family apologize that this had to happen,” Anthony McRae’s uncle told Nexstar’s WOOD-TV Tuesday.
Anthony McRae, 43, was living with his father at a secluded home at the end of a dead-end street in Lansing. It’s not far from where he shot and killed himself when police confronted him after the shooting Monday evening.
“He definitely was a paranoid schizophrenic, we know that for a fact,” uncle Timothy McRae said.
He said the family tried to get him help.
“Anthony was not a bad kid,” Timothy McRae said. “The kid never even had a fight that I remember, so when these mental issues came up, we recognized it as a family and we just tried to say, ‘Hey, maybe he needs to get some help.'”
But that was easier said than done.
“When we try to get him help, he would disappear,” the uncle said.
He wonders why his nephew didn’t get the help he needed after he was arrested in 2019 for carrying a concealed weapon, a felony. Anthony McRae pleaded down to a misdemeanor and was placed on probation, which ended in May 2021. He also agreed to surrender the gun. That was his only criminal conviction in Michigan.
“I would rather see him incarcerated and alive and these three other people alive than to have everybody dead because somewhere he slipped through the cracks of gun law,” the uncle said.
‘Mean and evil’ after mother’s death
Relatives were struggling to understand why he targeted MSU students. He lived 10 minutes away but had no known connection to the university, though his father, Michael McRae, said he may have tried getting a job at MSU.
His father told NBC News that his son grew “evil and mean” after his mother died in 2020. He said his son quit his warehouse job, stayed in his room all day and bought a gun for protection.
That didn’t surprise his uncle.
“The death of a mother is going to send any kid into a spiral, especially if you’re already depressed and schizophrenic, so you can only imagine,” Timothy McRae said. “You think you hear voices and then your mom dies. I’m sure you hear more voices.”
Michael McRae told NBC News he told his son to get rid of the gun and Anthony McRae said he did. But that was a lie.
Neighbors say they saw little of McRae. They said he rode his bike to get around and that he was known to fire shots outside the home.
“Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. Like whole rounds, a clip would go off into the ground or something,” a neighbor identified only as Ray said. “It really puts chills down your back to know someone like that can live in your damn neighborhood and you don’t even know it.”
Police say they found notes on McRae’s body referring to schools in Ewing, New Jersey, where he used to live. That led to a lockdown Tuesday morning that was later lifted.
“As a family, we’re sorry to the families, of course. Nobody wants to see anybody die,” Timothy McRae said. “We’ve taken a loss as well. I feel like sometimes with gun laws and mental health, there’s got to be more done than having these people get probation.”