Muskegon Heights superintendent says gunman shot innocent bystanders

Posted at 7:12 PM, Feb 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-10 19:12:32-05

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. -- The superintendent for Muskegon Heights Public Schools said that four people shot after basketball games Tuesday night were innocent bystanders who "were simply walking to their cars." Superintendent Alena Zachery-Ross addressed media late Wednesday afternoon.

"Shortly after the basketball game ended, as people were leaving out of the building shots were fired," Zachary-Ross stated.

Zachary-Ross said she attended the games as well, which took place between Muskegon Heights and Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills High School.

"Four people, two of them are current high school students, were injured," she said.

Zachary-Ross and Mercy Hackley Hospital confirm that all four people have been treated and released.

"Law enforcement responded, and a fifth person was reportedly shot by police," the superintendent added.

Police said the fifth person, the alleged gunman, was told to drop his weapon. Instead, he approached a deputy, brandished his weapon, and the deputy shot the suspect, authorities said. The suspect was injured and taken to the hospital.

The superintendent said "some chatter on social media" about the rivalry between Muskegon Heights and Ottawa Hills was observed prior to the game. "Grand Rapids Public Schools, Muskegon Heights schools, and law enforcement discussed the chatter. We believe it did not rise to a level that will cause us to cancel the game. We did take precautions. We barred several individuals from the game to avoid distraction and to avoid disruption. Again, this was not the result of any prior specific threats."

Muskegon Heights interim police chief Joseph Thomas said Tuesday night the sequence of events started in Grand Rapids about a week before. Grand Rapids Public Schools released a statement from GRPS security director Larry Johnson that read in part that the district "took extra precautions to ensure our student athletes’ safety, including bringing additional public safety officers and administrators. All three basketball games were played without incident. Following the game, the student athletes were escorted to their busses by staff and safely transported home."

Muskegon Heights Public Schools canceled classes for the district Wednesday and Thursday. Zachary-Ross said students won't return to classes until February 22, because they will be on mid-winter break.

She said counselors were made available Wednesday and Thursday for students who wanted to talk about the shooting. Counselors will also be made available when students return to school after the break.