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Police: Ill. officer, wife killed by son at Mich. college campus

One of the victims in Friday's shooting at Central Michigan University was James Eric Davis Sr., a part-time officer


By Matthew Walberg and Angie Leventis Lourgos and John Keilman
Chicago Tribune

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. — After a nearly daylong manhunt, authorities took into custody a college student from the Chicago suburbs who police said fatally shot his parents on the campus of Central Michigan University.

The university and local police said 19-year-old James Eric Davis Jr., of Plainfield, was taken into custody after being seen passing through the campus after midnight Saturday.

A law enforcement officer searches a wooded area for a suspect involved in a shooting at a Central Michigan University residence hall on Friday, March 2, 2018 in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. (Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal via AP)
A law enforcement officer searches a wooded area for a suspect involved in a shooting at a Central Michigan University residence hall on Friday, March 2, 2018 in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. (Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal via AP)

“Law enforcement personnel responded and arrested the suspect without incident,” according to the university’s website.

Authorities said Friday evening they had more than 100 officers from multiple agencies searching. They had warned that Davis should be considered armed and dangerous.

The victims were identified by authorities as Davis’ parents, James Eric Davis Sr. and Diva Jeneen Davis. Davis Sr. was a police officer in west suburban Bellwood and an Illinois National Guard veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Diva Davis’s Facebook page identified her as a real estate broker; friends said she was also a breast cancer survivor and had worked as a flight attendant.

People who knew the family called Davis Jr. “respectful” and “a good kid” and his parents “upstanding,” and said they saw no obvious signs of trouble with the teenager, who was a sophomore at the school in Mount Pleasant, Mich.

“He was a good kid, always,” said Deantre DeYoung, 20, who met Davis Jr. when they were high school freshmen at Plainfield South High School and had kept in touch. “You would never expect something like this to come from James.”

The Davises were reportedly picking up their son from college for spring break when the shooting happened about 8:30 a.m. inside Campbell Hall on campus.

But Lt. Larry Klaus of the campus police department said Davis Jr. was taken to a hospital Thursday night by campus police because of a drug-related health problem, possibly an overdose. Authorities did not elaborate.

Bellwood Police Chief Jiminez Allen confirmed Friday that Davis Sr. was a part-time officer in the village and called it “a very difficult time” for the department.

An Illinois legislator whose district includes Bellwood, Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, said in a Tweet on Friday afternoon: “My sincerest condolences go out to the family of Bellwood Police Officer James Davis Sr. and his wife who were shot and killed this morning. May they RIP.”

The younger Davis attended Plainfield South High for three years, then completed high school at Plainfield Central, where he played basketball and graduated in 2016, Plainfield Community School District 202 officials confirmed.

They declined any further comment “out of respect to the family.”

Jordan Murphy, a longtime friend of Davis Sr., said they worked together as Illinois Army National Guard recruiters after being deployed together as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Murphy said Davis Sr., who went by Eric, brought his son to Murphy’s home on several occasions.

“Junior was a very respectful man, raised by upstanding parents, who would do anything to protect him and his siblings,” Murphy said. “This is an incredibly tragic event, and I pray for Eric's other children. This is so incredibly out of character, something went wrong somewhere.”

Murphy called Eric and Diva Davis “loving, ever-present parents who doted on their children.”

Besides Davis Jr., the couple had a daughter and another son.

Lt. Col. Brad Leighton, public affairs director of the Illinois National Guard, said Davis Sr. served with the guard for 24 years before retiring in 2014.

His time in the guard included a 2003 deployment to Iraq, when he was with the 1244th Transportation Co. out of North Riverside. Later, he worked as a recruiter out of the Joliet Armory, Leighton said.

Julian Leal, who lives on the same block as the Davis home in Plainfield, called Davis Sr. a good neighbor, the type who would shovel out his neighbors after a snowstorm.

“We had picnics in our backyard,” Leal said. “I just had a beer with him last week. We talked about our kids who are in college. He was proud of his son.”

Leal added there was no hint of any problems or violence.

“We’re all confused and at a loss,” he said. “We’re telling our kids to be strong and pray for them. They wouldn’t want us to fall apart.”

The shooting occurred on the last day of classes before spring break at the Mount Pleasant campus, which is about 70 miles north of Lansing and is about a 270-mile drive from Chicago. Parents who were trying to pick up students were told instead to go to a local hotel where staff would assist them while the manhunt was ongoing.

The school posted an alert Friday morning on social media about shots being fired at Campbell Hall. An automated phone message also was sent to students.

Halie Byron, 20, said she locked herself in her off-campus house, about a 10-minute walk from Campbell Hall. She had planned to run errands before traveling home to the Detroit area.

“It's scary thinking about how easy a shooter can come into a college campus anywhere — a classroom, a library. There's so much easy access,” Byron said.

Chicago Tribune’s Robert McCoppin and Rosemary Sobol contributed. Associated Press contributed.

©2018 the Chicago Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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