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10 years since the Dantzler murders in Grand Rapids

Posted at 6:35 AM, Jul 07, 2021

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — On July 7, 2011, Rodrick Dantzler killed 7 people in Grand Rapids before going on a crime spree that ended with him taking his own life.

Now 10 years later, FOX 17 is looking back at the day that changed the city.

“In our history I don't know of a day that was more violent,” said Kevin Belk, former Chief of Police for Grand Rapids, in 2012.

Police say the 34-year-old Dantzler was high on cocaine when he shot and killed his wife, Jennifer Heeren, their 12-year-old daughter Kamrie, and Jennifer’s parents Thomas and Rebecca.

Then he went to a second home off Plainfield Avenue, killing his ex-girlfriend, Kimberlee Emkens, her sister, Amanda and her 10-year-old daughter, Marissa.

Around 4:30 p.m., police got some of their first information on Dantzler, including his appearance, the car he was driving with the license plate number and the weapon he was believed to have.

As investigators continued to sort through multiple crime scenes, patrol officers were pouring through the city to locate Dantzler.

It wasn't until Dantzler opened fire at several people in downtown Grand Rapids that police finally spotted him. The 34-year-old exchanged shots with officers before taking off on US-131, leading police on a chase that ran north to I-96. Dantzler crossed the median and drove into on-coming traffic before crashing into a ditch. He ran into a home off Rickman Avenue, taking three people inside as hostages.

Dantzler released one woman after police agreed to give him Gatorade and cigarettes.

With the home surrounded, Dantzler eventually took his own life around 11:30 p.m. that night and the other hostages were left unharmed.

Investigators later found a suicide note Dantzler wrote to his mom, where he said he was tired of living with the demons in his head.

A horrific and violent day ended and one that the victims’ families, police, and community would never forget.

“The emotions of the day went far beyond what we normally see,” said Belk.

“I feel as if it just happened yesterday, “ said Julie Roger Syfler, step-mother of 10-year-old Marissa, in 2012.

When it comes to the gun that Dantzler used that day, two people were charged.

Michael James Allen pleaded guilty to selling the gun to Dantzler, which was illegal since Dantzler was a felon.

Allen got the gun from a man named Joseph Krul. He also pleaded guilty to possessing a gun as a felon, and possessing a stolen firearm.