March 2 shooting in Campbell Hall leaves lasting impression on students


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Students watch from their windows as police arrive on the scene on March 2 at Towers Residence Halls.

Just before midnight on March 1, Newberry sophomore Shayla Ducsay was walking through the Towers residence hall complex when she saw a young black man sitting on the floor near the Kulhavi Hall entrance. 

She said she watched as several police officers arrived and approached him. They stood over him, calling him Jake and asking him what his plans were for the night.

The man didn’t say a word, but Ducsay said she could tell he wasn’t OK by the look on his face.

Suddenly, the man jumped up onto his feet and appeared to run out the Towers' entrance while the police followed, Ducsay said. 

Ducsay and her friends went back to a dorm room on the third floor of Campbell Hall, where they spent the night, she said.

At the time, Ducsay said she had no idea that the man she had just seen was James Eric Davis Jr., the 19-year-old sophomore who evaded police during a 15-hour manhunt. Police believe he shot and killed his parents March 2. 

The next morning Ducsay saw Davis trying to unlock her friend Julia’s dorm room, mistaking it for his own room.

Ducsay left to eat breakfast shortly after 8 a.m. at Real Food on Campus. Davis approached her in the hallway, asking if she had her key. He seemed to be confused about where he was, Ducsay said.

“He seemed better than the night before – more talkative — but I could tell there wasn’t something right,” Ducsay said.

She overheard Davis talking to his dad, James Eric Davis Sr., while walking behind them on the way to the elevator. Davis Sr. was asking his son if he was having girl problems, to which Davis Jr. replied no, Ducsay said. Davis Jr. appeared annoyed, she said.

Davis Sr., Davis Jr. and Ducsay entered the elevator. Davis Sr. turned to Ducsay and asked if boys and girls lived together in the dorms. She answered him while trying not to look at Davis Jr., who was standing to the right of her.

“I was trying to act like nothing was wrong, although there was clearly something wrong,” Ducsay said. 

When they arrived at the first floor, Ducsay said she heard Davis Sr. say to his son that they were going to the front desk to see were he lived, since neither of them seemed to know. 

Shortly after, Ducsay took her belongings to her vehicle and was about to head to class to take an exam. When she was done, she received a Central Alert call informing her of shots fired in the Towers. 

She tried to get back in the doors she had just exited but they were already locked. Ducsay was forced to drive around to the front of the complex. She felt she wasn’t safe and began to cry in fear that the person who fired the shots was nearby, she said.

When the name of the suspect was revealed as Davis Jr., Ducsay thought about the man she had seen the night before. However, she assumed it couldn’t be the same man since the police had been calling him Jake.

It wasn’t until Ducsay’s friend Amanda sent her a picture while she was on her way home that she found out that man she had seen the night before was actually Davis Jr.

Ducsay was just one of thousands of people – students, faculty, police, community members, relatives – who were affected by the shooting on March 2 that left Davis Sr. and wife, Diva, dead.

A manhunt for Davis that lasted 15 hours prevented people from leaving campus, bringing spring break to a brief delay.

Detroit junior Leron Stafford woke up that morning when he heard two “bangs” come from below his fifth-floor dorm room in Campbell Hall. He received the call from Central Alert that informed him there was a shooting at his residence hall and the suspect was still at large.

Stafford checked on his roommates and locked their door, then began to pack for spring break while the residence hall was on lockdown.

Dansville sophomore Hunter McLaren, a Central Michigan Life staff reporter who lives on the fourth floor of Campbell Hall, didn’t hear any shots fired, but woke up to the Central Alert call. 

Like Stafford, he checked on his roommate, Matt Aiello, and they locked their door. They could hear people running through the halls and assumed it was police. 

Within the next 90 minutes, police began to go room to room, recording everyone’s names and informing residents what was happening. Residents were advised to stay in their rooms with the doors locked. 

For Aiello, that was when the reality of the situation began to sink in. 

At about 2 p.m. police began escorting residents to the Towers lobby to either get food or to go to their vehicles, Aiello said. 

The manhunt officially ended shortly after midnight on March 3. Davis Jr. was being spotted by an employee on a passing train and taken into police custody. Davis is being held in the Isabella County Jail.

For students off campus, the situation was no less threatening. 

Livonia senior Ari Zarkin was in his house on the corner of Washington and High Street as he watched Michigan State Police, Mount Pleasant police and FBI officers walking through the streets and checking houses for Davis Jr.

Zarkin recorded a video via Snapchat of the armed officers approaching houses in the neighborhood, including his own house. When the officers came to the door they asked if the residents were aware of the situation and if they had seen anything. 

The situation gave Zarkin anxiety because it reminded him of the time he had been stabbed in December 2016 and a manhunt had taken place for his attacker. 

Yet, Zarkin said he isn't worried about resuming classes again.

"I feel pretty safe at (CMU)," Zarkin said. 

Ducsay thinks she will be more alert and observant as she walks on campus. 

"I have a feeling that the first time I have to walk back to class — which will be the exact same class I was supposed to go to on Friday — I will feel like I should look over my shoulder," Ducsay said.

University Editor Evan Sasiela contributed to this story. 

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