Police search for motive after apparent ‘random’ shooting at Michigan recreation center wounds at least 9

Jun 16, 2024, 4:00 PM

Evidence markers are placed at the scene of a shooting at a splash pad in Rochester Hills, Michigan...

Evidence markers are placed at the scene of a shooting at a splash pad in Rochester Hills, Michigan, on June 15. (WXYZ via CNN Newsource)

(WXYZ via CNN Newsource)

(CNN) — Police are looking for a motive after at least nine people were shot in what appears to be a “random” shooting that sent panicked families fleeing a crowded recreation area in Rochester Hills, Michigan, on Saturday afternoon, authorities said.

Police on Sunday identified the gunman as Michael William Nash, 42, from Shelby Township. He pulled up to the Brooklands Plaza Splash Pad, left a vehicle and opened fire from roughly 20 feet away, reloading multiple times, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said Saturday. The suspect fired “potentially 28 times,” the sheriff said.

“Under no circumstances is it normal for ice cream cones and flip flops to be strewn amongst blood and bullet casings,” said Michigan Rep. John James at a news conference Saturday night.

Nash was found dead with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at the home he shared with his mother after police tracked the weapon from the shooting to an address around half a mile from the crime scene, Bouchard said. Police found a rifle on the kitchen table.

Nash didn’t have any previous police contact or criminal record, according to Bouchard.

‘Varing kinds of injuries’

The victims, including two small children and their mother, were injured in the shooting and taken to four local hospitals with “varying kinds of injuries,” the sheriff said. As of early Sunday morning, two of the victims were in critical condition and seven were in stable condition.

“When I got on scene, I started to cry,” said Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett on Saturday night. “Because I know what a splash pad is supposed to be. It’s supposed to be a place where people gather, where families make memories, where people have fun and enjoy a Saturday afternoon and it wasn’t today.”

An 8-year-old boy is in critical condition after suffering a gunshot wound to the head and his 4-year-old brother was shot in the thigh and is in stable condition, Bouchard said. Their 39-year-old mother, with wounds to the abdomen and leg, was also in critical condition.

Six other gunshot victims, including three women and three men ranging in age from 30 to 78, were in stable condition Saturday night.

The incident appears to be “random” as the suspect has “no connectivity to the victims,” and authorities have yet to determine a motivation for the attack, the sheriff said.

“We’ll be looking for any evidence … that would give us an inclination of what may be driving this individual prior to this terrible moment,” Bouchard said.

The shooting comes at a time when communities are still recovering from two mass shootings in the state in recent years. In February 2023, a gunman killed three Michigan State University students and critically wounded five others. A couple years prior, a teenager killed four students at an Oxford, Michigan, high school in 2021.

“We’re not even fully comprehending what happened at Oxford, and now we have another complete tragedy that we’re dealing with,” Bouchard said.

The shooting extends the list of around 220 mass shootings in the country so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The archive, like CNN, defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people are shot, excluding the shooter.

How the shooting unfolded at a crowded splash pad

Bouchard said the gunman arrived at the splash pad and opened fire with a Glock 9 mm handgun.

“It looked chaotic. You could see people kind of just enjoying the day and then it was a scramble,” Bouchard said, referencing video of the shooting. “People were falling, getting hit, trying to run.”

Detectives recovered 28 shell casings at the scene, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office.

“He started firing once he was out of his car from the base of the steps, climbing the steps, reloading and then was firing from the top of the steps in the splash pad area before he left and appeared to leave in no rush, just calmly walked back to his car,” Bouchard said.

One witness said she first thought there were fireworks going off.

“We were sitting out on the patio and we heard what we thought was firecrackers and I guess it was gunshots because we heard people screaming, like ‘help us, help us!’” Cheryl Delcotto told CNN. “So, we ran around, I called 911, I couldn’t get a hold of anybody because I guess people were already calling.”

The first 911 call alerting police to the incident was made around 5:11 p.m. Bouchard said a Rochester Hills sergeant responded to the scene within two minutes – before the call was dispatched. By that point, the suspect had already fled the scene, according to Bouchard.

Authorities located the handgun and three empty magazines at the scene, the sheriff said.

Delcotto, who was visiting a home near the splash pad when the shooting began, described seeing blood-covered victims and people rendering aid.

“I see people laying on the ground, I seen a guy who was shot in the stomach who was sitting on a chair, an older man,” she said. Then she saw a man whose “son was coming out on a stretcher – with blood all over his face, and it was scary.”

Suspect found dead after police breached his home

After the shooting, police traced the weapon found at the scene to a nearby home, where they found a vehicle matching a description of the one that drove away from the scene of the shooting, according to the sheriff.

The suspect was not known to authorities until they did a “quick investigation” and determined who they believed was involved based on evidence from the scene of the shooting.

Police had containment on the home within 45 minutes to one hour, according to Bouchard. There was “an acknowledgment that we were there and we heard or saw him,” Bouchard said.

After making attempts to contact the suspect, law enforcement “breached the home and deployed drones to begin an examination of the home,” and located the deceased suspect, Bouchard said.

Police later found a handgun next to the deceased suspect inside the home. A drone that flew into the home while police surrounded it also found what appeared to be an “AR-platform” firearm on the kitchen table, Bouchard said.

“It wouldn’t surprise me – because having that on the kitchen table is not an everyday activity – that there was probably something else, a second chapter, potentially,” Bouchard said.

Police said the investigation is ongoing as they work to “determine if there’s either a digital or a paper trail that would give us some insight” and piece together a timeline of how the shooting unfolded. Whether or not the suspect posted any relevant information on social media or has anything on his devices will also be part of the investigation, officials said.

“It’s gonna be one of those challenges to try to figure out why there appears to be no connection between the victims and the location whatsoever. A person doesn’t live in Rochester Hills. He went to a Rochester Hills Park,” Bouchard said.

Authorities have also recovered video evidence from a nearby camera and are looking for bullet fragments, Bouchard said.

Suspect’s former bankruptcy attorney remembers him as ‘soft-spoken’

As the investigation continues and new details emerge about the suspect, an attorney who represented Nash in a 2011 bankruptcy case remembered him as a “soft-spoken” individual who suffered in the financial crash of 2007 to 2009.

“I remember Michael because he was very young to be needing bankruptcy. He was yet another person who fell victim to the aftereffects of the 2009 financial crisis,” Kelli Meeks told CNN.

Although Meeks is a licensed attorney, according to the state bar of Michigan, she told CNN she stopped practicing law in 2021 to become a consultant and leadership coach.

Nash was trying to run his own landscaping business, but after the financial crash, Meeks says it did not work out.

She told CNN Nash was about $21,000 in debt and had his car and landscaping equipment repossessed.

“And on top of that, he had medical bills to take care of,” Meeks said. “He was a young man down on his luck.”

Community was still reeling from Oxford shooting

Bouchard called Saturday’s incident a “gut punch,” and stressed the community is still reeling from the 2021 shooting at a high school in Oxford, just 15 miles north of Rochester Hills.

“None of us in this room, in this community or in this country, anticipated going into Father’s Day weekend with this kind of tragedy – that families will be deeply affected by forever,” the sheriff said Saturday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement on X she is in contact with local officials following the shooting.

“I am heartbroken to learn about the shooting in Rochester Hills,” she wrote. “We are monitoring the situation as updates continue to come in, and are in touch with local officials.”

President Joe Biden and White House officials are also tracking the shooting, White House spokesperson Jeremy Edwards said.

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Police search for motive after apparent ‘random’ shooting at Michigan recreation center wounds at least 9