A 19-year-old student suspected of fatally shooting his parents at a Central Michigan University dormitory had been acting so strangely the day before the killings that campus police talked to his mother and then took him to a hospital for suspected drug abuse, authorities said Saturday.
University police Chief Bill Yeagley told reporters that James Eric Davis Jr.’s parents had just picked him up from that hospital and brought him to his dorm to pack up for spring break when Friday’s shooting happened. He said the gun used in the shooting belonged to Davis’ father, James Davis Sr., a part-time police officer in the Chicago suburb of Bellwood.
Yeagley would not say whether the father had brought the gun to the university’s campus in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, when picking up his son, but he noted that Davis Jr. can be seen on video in the dorm’s parking lot with the gun before he entered the residence hall where his parents were shot around 8:30 a.m.
“We can make a lot of assumptions, but I’m not going to make those assumptions. But I can tell you for sure that the gun came from outside, in the parking lot, with (Davis Jr.) through the building,” Yeagley said.
Davis Jr. has been charged with two counts of murder and a weapons charge in the shootings, university spokeswoman Heather Smith said Saturday.
He remained under guard Saturday at a hospital where he was taken following his arrest, but will be moved to the Isabella County jail when he’s discharged, Yeagley said.
Yeagley declined to say whether drugs were found in Davis Jr.’s system. He also would not say what type of gun was used or whether it was Davis Sr.’s service revolver. But he did say that it would have been a violation of campus policy for Davis Sr. to bring a gun on campus because only law enforcement on active duty or those with special permission can do so.
Davis Jr. was arrested without incident shortly after midnight following an intensive daylong search that included more than 100 police officers, some heavily armed in camouflage uniforms, authorities said. Authorities found him after someone aboard a train spotted a person along railroad tracks in Mount Pleasant, and called police, Yeagley said.
Yeagley said Davis Jr. was under guard at a hospital Saturday and would be moved to the Isabella County jail when he’s discharged.
Mount Pleasant is about a 285-mile (460-kilometer) drive from the family’s hometown of Plainfield, Illinois. The shooting occurred on a day when parents were arriving to pick up students at the university for the beginning of a weeklong spring break.
Yeagley said witness statements and video indicate that at the time they were shot, Davis Jr.’s parents were in his fourth-floor dorm at the campus’ Campbell Hall “simply packing up for spring break.”
He said police had first come into contact with Davis Jr. on Thursday morning when he came running into a community police officer’s office in his dorm “very frightened” and “not making a lot of sense.”
“He said someone was out to hurt him, someone was going to harm him, and the officer calmed him down and tried to gain more information about what was going on. … Mr. Davis was very vague and he kept talking about someone having a gun,” Yeagley said, adding that Davis Jr. said he had not actually seen the person with a gun.
“We said, ‘How do you know he was going to hurt you if you didn’t see a gun?’ He was saying things like, ‘It’s just a feeling. I know it,'” the chief said.
Davis Jr. eventually talked about riding in a dorm elevator with the person, and police went to talk to the individual Davis Jr. had identified. Yeagley said that when officers determined that the person posed no threat — and reviewed video from the elevator that showed Davis Jr. and that person laughing — Davis Jr. said he was fine and was leaving campus Friday for spring break.
Hours later, officers spotted Davis Jr. in a dorm hallway with his suitcases, Yeagley said. When officers tried to talk to him, he again wasn’t making sense, Yeagley said, adding that the student was acting “in a fashion that isn’t reasonable or logical.” They asked Davis Jr. to call his parents, which he did. An officer then spoke to Davis’ mother, Diva Davis, told them about her son’s behavior, their concerns about possible drug use and asked her whether he had a history of drug use, Yeagley said.
“The mother said she too was concerned this could be drugs,” he said.
Following the shooting, police released a photo of Davis Jr. and urged the public to call 911 if they saw him but also warned that he shouldn’t be confronted.
Yeagley said Davis Jr. had not been previously identified by campus officials as someone that others on campus were concerned about.
“Mr. Davis was not ever reported, and we had no interaction that we’re aware of with him in any negative fashion — with anybody — prior to this incident,” he said.
University President George E. Ross said the shooting had left the campus and surrounding community traumatized. “There were thousands of people who were sheltering in place yesterday and they will be dealing with this for the rest of their lives,” he said.
This story has been corrected to reflect that Davis was found along train tracks, not aboard a train.