A college student from southwest suburban Chicago allegedly fatally shot his parents on the campus of Central Michigan University on Friday and remains at large and is considered dangerous.
Authorities said Friday evening they had more than 100 officers from multiple agencies searching for 19-year-old James Eric Davis, of Plainfield.
The victims were identified by authorities as Davis’ parents James Eric Davis Sr. and Diva Jeneen Davis. The elder Davis was part-time police officer in west suburban Bellwood and a Illinois National Guard veteran who served in Operational Iraqi Freedom. Diva Davis’ Facebook page identified her as a real estate broker; friends said she was also a breast cancer survivor.
The Davises were reportedly picking up their son from his college campus for spring break when the shooting happened.
Bellwood Police Chief Jiminez Allen on Friday 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 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 is a sophomore at Central Michigan University, officials said. He attended attended Plainfield South High School for three years, then graduated from Plainfield Central High in 2016, and played on the basketball team, Plainfield Community School District 202 officials confirmed.
They declined any further comment “out of respect to the family.”
Police warned the public not to a confront Davis. He is suspected of committing the shooting at a residence hall on campus. Authorities said they suspected Davis was still in the central Michigan area.
Campus police identified and released a photo of Davis during an afternoon news conference. Lt. Larry Klaus said surveillance video suggests he fled on foot after the 8:30 a.m. shooting at Campbell Hall.
Jordan Murphy, a longtime friend of Davis Sr., and said the two worked together as Illinois Army National Guard recruiters after being deployed together as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He said Davis, 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.”
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, Davis 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 that 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.”
Klaus, the campus police lieutenant in Michigan, said anyone who sees Davis shouldn’t confront him, but needs to call 911. The school, which has about 23,000 students, urged everyone on campus to take shelter.
“He should be considered armed and dangerous,” said Klaus, adding that Davis was wearing a black hoodie but had been shedding certain clothes while on the run.
Klaus said Davis was taken to a hospital Thursday night by campus police because of a drug-related health problem, possibly an overdose. No other details were released.
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. 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.
In the surrounding community, students and staff in the Mount Pleasant school district were told not to leave nine buildings. Visitors also weren’t being allowed to enter.
Tribune reporters Robert McCoppin and Rosemary Sobol contributed. Associated Press contributed.