Area residents shaken by tragic shootings in Grand Rapids

When Sandra Shelley heard on the radio about the shooting of seven people in Grand Rapids Thursday evening, she was driving west to Muskegon on Interstate 96. Moments later, she and other drivers were diverted onto the Plainfield Avenue N.E. exit by two police officers who were standing near their car with their guns drawn, she said.
Jordan Travis
Jul 9, 2011

Shelley, a Nunica resident, was helping her niece move from Flint on the evening that police say Rodrick Shonte Dantzler shot and killed seven people — including two of his ex-girlfriends and his daughter — before leading police on a chase through Grand Rapids. He then took two hostages in a house on the city’s northeast side, eventually releasing them both after a lengthy standoff and shooting himself in the head, police said.

Although she didn’t know it at the time, Shelley had been diverted to the immediate vicinity of where Dantzler had slain his seven victims in two separate incidents.

Shelley said she never felt she was in danger — although until police had Dantzler surrounded in a house on Soft Water Lake, she kept her eyes open for the shooter's vehicle.

“I think (the police) did an awesome job though, and the people that were trying to negotiate with (Dantzler), all the citizens that were involved, really,” she said.

The murder of seven people was “senseless,” Shelley said — adding that if Dantzler was intent on taking his own life, he should’ve done it before killing the others.

Her views were shared by other area residents.

On the patio of Odd Side Ales in downtown Grand Haven, Spring Lake resident Bob Thompson and Donnie Boyer of Ferrysburg paused from sipping their beers Friday evening to speak about the shootings.

“It was tragic," Thompson said. "It’s not something you’d expect in Grand Rapids."

Boyer said he wished that police had been able to stop Dantzler sooner. He said he knows several people in Grand Rapids, including a co-worker who lives less than a mile from the site of the shootings.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Read more of this story in today's print and e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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