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Michigan State shooter Anthony McRae pleaded guilty to gun charge in 2019

Anthony McRae. (Michigan Department of Corrections/TNS)

State officials Tuesday identified 43-year-old Anthony McRae, who was charged with multiple gun-related crimes in 2019, as the attacker who shot and killed three people and wounded five others at Michigan State University.

McRae, who was found off-campus after dying of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, was identified less than nine hours after police lifted a campuswide shelter-in-place order following the mass shooting.

McRae, who neighbors described as a “hell-raiser” who practiced target shooting out his back door, has a recent history with firearms. And his father, Michael McRae, 66, told The Detroit News that he had previously encouraged his son to get rid of his guns.

Anthony McRae was arrested in Lansing and charged in June 2019 with carrying a concealed pistol without a concealed carry permit, according to Ingham County court records obtained Tuesday by The Detroit News. The initial charge was a felony that carried a potential penalty of five years in prison, according to the records.

At about 3 a.m. June 7, 2019, an officer encountered Anthony McRae in Lansing where the officer asked him if he had any weapons on him. McRae acknowledged he had a gun but he didn’t have a concealed weapons permit, according to court records. McRae also had a magazine in his right breast pocket, according to the court records.

“He advised the handgun was registered to him,” a court document about the incident said. “He bought it late March at Capital Discount. He was currently trying to obtain a concealed weapons permit.”

In October 2019, Ingham County prosecutors added a second charge against McRae: possession of a loaded firearm in a vehicle, a misdemeanor.

That same month, October 2019, McRae agreed to plead guilty to the lesser misdemeanor charge, and prosecutors dismissed the felony charge.

Ingham County Prosecutor John Dewane, who was appointed to his position in December, argued that, even if McRae had been convicted on the original charge, he likely would have avoided jail or prison time because sentencing guidelines for the two charges are similar and would have resulted in a recommendation against incarceration.

“The sentencing guideline score would have been the same if he had been convicted of either the original charge (Carrying a Concealed Weapon) or the offense for which he was convicted (carrying a firearm in a vehicle),” Dewane said in a statement.

McRae was sentenced in November 2019 to 12 months’ probation. In October 2020, six additional months were added to his probation, according to court records. The addition was meant to allow him to complete the terms of the probation order, the records said.

His probation period concluded in May 2021.

The plea to a lesser, misdemeanor charge is not unusual, said Birmingham defense lawyer Wade Fink, who was not involved in the case.

“It is exceedingly common for someone who doesn’t have a criminal history and was carrying a concealed weapon,” Fink said. “If everybody went to prison for that, you would have an overcrowding problem and you would be giving a lot of younger people felonies, which hurts them their whole life.

“What would have stopped this is more difficulty accessing guns,” Fink added. “The felony isn’t going to stop a madman.”

McRae was barred from having a weapon “of any type” during the term of his probation, according to a Nov. 26, 2019, court order.

He lived in a 960-square-foot home on the north side of Lansing, east of Capital Region International Airport. The home is owned by his father, Michael McRae. A chain link fence blocks off the front driveway.

Michael McRae, whose family moved to Lansing about two decades ago, said his son’s demeanor changed after his mother, Linda, died about two years ago.

“God knows you’ll never know what a kid is going to do,” Michael McRae told the News.

Anthony McRae had previously worked at a local warehouse, his dad said.

Michael McRae said he believes his son bought the weapon he used in Monday’s fatal campus shooting at a local pawn shop.

Paul Rodney Tucker, who lives around the corner from Anthony McRae, said he’d run into McRae more than once at the party store and described him as “wild” and a “hell-raiser.”

“I knew he lived at that house because there was constant trouble there,” he said.

Tucker also heard gunshot target practice from the home last summer and believed police had been called there before.

“I told my dad it was a semi-automatic pistol,” Tucker said of gunshots heard last summer. “Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. It wasn’t firecrackers.”

Megan and Tyler Bender, who live on the same street as Anthony McRae, said he moved in with his father about a year ago. They said Mike McRae, Anthony’s father, is a scrapper well-known in the neighborhood.

“He’s never done any harm to anyone,” Megan Bender said. “He’s just an old man, minds his business.”

But police had been called to the residence before because of the sound of gunshots, Bender said.

Bender said Anthony McRae would fire out of the back door of the home, she believed for target practice.

Based on where McRae was found dead, Bender believed he was headed home. She had been listening to the scanner for most of the night and when she heard where police had said the suspect had died and later traffic indicating they were being dispatched to her street, she felt relieved McRae hadn’t made it back to the neighborhood.

Suzanne Shook, who also lives on the same block as McRae, watched police cars descend on a home down the street Monday night after the shooting, responding to the home of the man she’s seen walking and biking down the street occasionally. She said it was a shock in a neighborhood that is usually “super quiet.”

“It really catches you off guard when it’s close to home like this,” Shook said.

On Tuesday morning, Ray Lewis started walking toward the home of Michael McRae — father of the dead gunman — before he turned around at the sight of the cameras surrounding the home.

He’d come to check on his friend because he’d heard rumors about what happened.

“Oh my God,” Lewis yelled upon hearing details of the deadly campus shooting and Anthony McRae’s death.

“I just seen Mike a couple days ago,” Lewis told a Detroit News reporter. “I came here to see if he’s all right … Mike is a good guy.”

Lewis said he’d met Anthony McRae once or twice and described him as “quiet” and someone who “kept to himself.”

Anthony McRae also has prior addresses in Bear, Delaware.


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