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Essays offer glimpse of NIU gunman

Sun., April 20, 2008

DEKALB, Ill. – Graduate school application essays written by a man who fatally shot five students and wounded 18 people in a Northern Illinois University classroom before committing suicide portray a young person who felt profoundly lost.

In four essays the Chicago Tribune obtained from the University of Illinois and NIU, Steven Kazmierczak discussed feeling alienated and his parents’ decision to send him to a group home.

“For as long as I can remember, I have always been an extremely sensitive individual and feel as though I am able to empathize with other people’s emotional and social needs,” Kazmierczak wrote. “However, some of my peers were not very understanding or accepting, and I feel as though I was victimized to a certain degree during my adolescent years.”

That victimization, he explained in an application to the University of Illinois School of Social Work, came from overwhelming social pressures.

“In hindsight, I feel that this was largely a result of the sensitivity that I often exhibited toward other classmates which was not necessarily accepted by others,” Kazmierczak wrote.

Kazmierczak, 27, burst into an auditorium on Valentine’s Day, carrying at least four guns, and fired dozens of shots in a geology class. Authorities still don’t know why he targeted the class.

He attended NIU as an undergraduate and went to Illinois for graduate school.

Kazmierczak started meeting with social workers at his suburban Chicago middle school by age 11. His father, Robert Kazmierczak, told the Tribune he and his late wife tried to help Steven by putting him in the group home.

“We did everything we could to help him. My wife and I worked very hard to help my son. I thought he was doing well,” said Kazmierczak. “He still had a lot of support. He knew I would help him if he was in trouble.”

Kazmierczak also talked about wanting to work with the mentally ill in the criminal justice system.

“I truly do feel as though I would be an altruistic social worker, mainly due to my past experiences, because I view myself as being able to relate to those segments of society that are in need of direction,” he wrote.


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