It was the deadliest shooting rampage ever to occur in Western Michigan. The havoc caused by Rodrick Dantzler on Thursday in Grand Rapids was so widespread that reporters had to specify that they were reporting live at just one of multiple crime scenes.
On Thursday afternoon, Dantzler, who has been described as having bipolar disorder, entered the homes of two former girlfriends, killing them both as well as others present in the houses at the time, including his own 12-year-old daughter. In all, Dantzler killed seven people in the span of a couple of hours and then led police on a car chase through Grand Rapids, eventually holing himself up in a house and taking three hostages.
WWMT, WXMI, WOOD, and WZZM all preempted their regularly scheduled programming on Thursday evening to bring live coverage of Dantzler’s rampage, which ended around 11:30 p.m. when the suspect shot himself.
Here’s a station-by-station breakdown of the local TV coverage…
While WWMT reported on Dantzler’s shooting spree during its 5, 5:30, and 6:00 p.m. newscasts, the CBS-affiliate stuck with original programming during the 7:00 o’clock hour with a breaking news scroll.
At 7:55, WWMT broke in with live coverage of the rampage with Kate Tillotson, who last week moved from mornings to evenings, anchoring the breaking news coverage.
Reporters Jennifer Dowling and David Bailey gave live updates at two separate crime scenes. Dowling reported that police instructed the media to stay out of the street during the earlier high speed chase because the suspect was firing out of his car at passing vehicles.
Jared Werksma reported live from the scene where the suspect had taken hostages. A crowd of spectators had lined the streets near the house where the suspect was cornered and Werksma described the scene as having almost a “festival atmosphere.”
Andy Dominianni, who had been following Dantzler’s movements all day, reported that a WWMT news vehicle was nearly hit by one of the suspect’s gunshots as he sprayed bullets in the air while being pursued by police.
At 9:00, WWMT cut to the regularly scheduled “Big Brother” and then picked back up with coverage with its 11 p.m. newscast.
Reporting live from outside of the house where the suspect had taken hostages, Dominianni (above, left), the co-anchor of WWMT’s 11 p.m. newscast, reported shortly after 11:30 that Dantzler had taken his own life.
Jason Volentine (right) led off WXMI’s 5 p.m. lifestyle show “The One Seven” reporting live from outside of the home where one of the two shootings took place. Volentine informed viewers that Dantzler was on the move and driving a white SUV. Lisa LaPlante was positioned near where the second shooting took place earlier in the day.
Just after 8:00 p.m. Courtney Perna reported live on the phone that Dantzler had entered a nearby house. Perna soon informed viewers that the suspect had taken hostages.
Later in the evening, LaPlante was joined outside of the house by Janice Allen. The house was surrounded by squad cars and ambulances while a police helicopter circled overheard.
Around 11:40, WXMI reported that Dantzler had shot himself. Shortly before the station reported Dantzler’s self-inflicted gunshot wound, anchor Christian Frank said that the suspect had requested cigarettes and matches from hostage negotiators and had been seen snorting an unknown substance.
NBC-affiliate WOOD cut into “Ellen” at 4:30 to bring a breaking news report from Brian Sterling, anchor of WOOD’s 5, 6, and 11 p.m. newscasts, updating viewers on Dantzler’s multiple murders.
Sterling was back at 5:00 joined by his co-anchor Anne Schieber. They checked in with reporter Dani Carlson at the top of the newscast, who was positioned outside of the home where Dantzler had killed three people. Leon Hendricks (left) followed Carlson, reporting live near the house where four murders had occurred.
WOOD continued its live coverage through the evening with Suzanne Shaw replacing Schieber at the anchor desk around 8:00 p.m. and political reporter Rick Albin leading the breaking news coverage from the newsroom later in the night.
Hendricks eventually moved to the location where Dantzler had taken hostages and Ken Kolker was also there reporting live from outside of the house. Kolker informed viewers around 9:40 that, according to the police scanner, Dantzler had released one of the hostages.
Shortly after 11:30, Kolker reported that he had heard from a police officer that the hostages were safe and that Dantzler may have turned the gun on himself.
WOOD is set to air a special about the violent rampage at 8:00 p.m. tonight.
ABC-affiliate WZZM began its evening coverage of the rampage with its regularly scheduled 5:30 p.m. newscast, anchored by Juliet Dragos. Veteran reporter Lee Van Ameyde began WZZM’s live coverage at the scene of one of the shootings. He was joined by Phil Dawson, who reported that Dantzler was on the loose and “extremely, extremely dangerous.” Brent Ashcroft was stationed at the scene where Dantzler had killed four people just hours earlier.
WZZM continued its live coverage through the night, checking in with reporters in the field, sharing information taken from the police scanner, and even mentioning details about Dantzler that were gleaned from his Facebook page.
Dragos was joined at the anchor desk by Val Lego who told viewers, “It’s really not a tradition of ours to report on scanner traffic, however this a very extraordinary situation.” Lego emphasized that most of what WZZM was reporting was unconfirmed.
WZZM was able to get footage of the house where Dantzler had taken hostages (above, right) before police told their news crew to move outside of an expanded perimeter around the house.
Shortly after 11:30, WZZM, like the other stations, reported that Dantzler had likely shot himself and that the hostages were now all safe.