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Rodrick Shonte DANTZLER





Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Police believe that he was "hunting" his former girlfriends and that the pending separation from his wife was the reason for the shooting spree
Number of victims: 7
Date of murders: July 7, 2011
Date of birth: March 8, 1977
Victims profile: His former girlfriend Kimberlee Ann Emkens, 23, her sister, Amanda Renee Emkens, 27, and Amanda's 10-year-old daughter, Marissa Lynn Emkens / His estranged wife, Jennifer Heeren, 29,  their daughter, Kamrie Heeren, 12 and his wife's parents, Thomas Heeren, 51 and Rebecca Heeren, 52
Method of murder: Shooting (9mm Glock handgun)
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA
Status: Committed suicide by shooting himself the same day

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2011 Grand Rapids, Michigan mass murder

On July 7, 2011, a gunman killed seven people and wounded two others in a mass murder in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The deaths took place in two homes, with the two non-fatal gunshot injuries taking place on the road. The suspected gunman, Rodrick Shonte Dantzler, later killed himself after holding three people hostage in a third home following a police chase. Those killed included Dantzler's estranged wife, their daughter, his former girlfriend, and members of the other victims' families. One of the non-fatal victims was also acquainted with Dantzler.


The shooter is Rodrick Shonte Dantzler, a 34-year-old building technician from Grand Rapids. Dantzler was convicted as a juvenile for burglary in 1992, when he was 15 years old. During his childhood, Dantzler was without his father and lived with his stepfather who had used drugs.

In 1995, his mother Victoria Dantzler kicked him out of the house at the age of 18 and filed a protection order against him. In addition, three other women had filed protection orders against Dantzler from him threatening to abuse them and their property. Also in 1995, Dantzler set fire to his mother's house.

In 1997, he was convicted of domestic violence and destroying property. Dantzler was charged with assault in 2000 in which he was involved in shooting someone in a road rage incident; he was sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison. In prison, Dantzler took part in programs to prevent anger and got the equivalent of a high school diploma. He was released from prison in 2005.

Following his release, Dantzler was said to be bipolar and not taking his medication. He was also said to be getting disability money for his bipolar disorder. In 2010, Dantzler was charged with assault and battery, being sentenced to prison for a year. His mother described Dantzler as having "a very explosive temper and will act violently without thinking." Dantzler also used cocaine and alcohol the day of the shooting and was known to abuse alcohol. A few days before the shooting, Dantzler took his wife and daughter to Michigan's Adventure in Muskegon. During the week prior to the shooting, Dantzler's wife, Jennifer Heeren, was planning to separate from him and was reported to not be staying in the same house as Dantzler.


The spree began with the killing of seven victims in two separate homes. One of the shootings happened in a house on Plainfield Avenue NE, in which Dantzler's former girlfriend, her sister, and her sister's 10-year-old daughter were killed. Another shooting occurred at a house on Brynell Court NE in which Dantzler's estranged wife, their daughter, and his wife's parents (the home's owners), were killed.

The police became involved when Dantzler's mother called police around 2:30 p.m., reporting that her son had called her to say he had shot his wife. Police went to his house on Janes Avenue NE, where he lived alone since his wife and daughter moved out, but found no one. Shortly afterward, the murder scenes on Plainfield Avenue and Brynell Court were discovered. Police arrived at the various scenes, closing down streets in the area and telling area residents to stay inside their homes.

Another victim was shot in an apparently random road rage incident near Godfrey Avenue and Oxford Street SW at 3:00 p.m. The victim, Robert Poore, was spared serious injury as the bullet was deflected by a titanium plate in his nose. At this point, Dantzler was driving a Lincoln Town Car. He later abandoned that car and got into a GMC Suburban with another person, who eventually left the car.

At about 7:00 p.m., April Swanson, a female friend of Dantzler, called police to report that he was following her car. He shot her from his vehicle at Fulton Street and Division Avenue, with the woman suffering a serious but non-life-threatening arm injury. Police intervened by ramming Dentzler's vehicle, and they exchanged gunfire; no officers were shot. The suspect was chased by police, who attempted to disable his vehicle as he drove through downtown Grand Rapids, prior to briefly taking Interstate 196 west to northbound US 131. Dantzler then turned onto eastbound Interstate 96, where he crossed the median and continued eastward on the westbound lanes, and crashed into a freeway ditch around 7:15 p.m.

At this point, he exited his vehicle and ran on foot, entering a residence on Rickman Avenue NE in the northeastern part of Grand Rapids, not far from the killings on Brynell Court. He held Joyce Bean, her significant other Steve Helderman, and Meg Holmes hostage; Dantzler had no connection to them. Joyce Bean, who was 53 years old, was released from the house at about 9:30 p.m after Dantzler was given cigarettes and Gatorade by police. Dantzler continued negotiations with police, at which point he was distraught and contemplating suicide. At 11:30 p.m., Dantzler released the two remaining hostages and fatally shot himself in the head.

Police believe that he was "hunting" his former girlfriends and that the pending separation from his wife was the reason for the shooting spree. Police said that Dantzler was carrying a large amount of ammunition. Dantzler used a stolen .40 caliber handgun in the shootings.


Dantzler killed seven people in two homes. At the home on Plainfield Avenue, he killed 27-year-old Amanda Emkens along with her 10-year-old daughter Marisa Emkens and her 23-year-old sister Kimberlee Emkens. Kimberlee Emkens was a former girlfriend of Dantzler, although the two had not been in recent contact. At the home on Brynell Court, the suspect killed 29-year-old Jennifer Heeren along with her 12-year-old daughter Kamrie Dantzler and her parents Thomas Heeren, 51, and Rebecca Heeren, 52. Jennifer Heeren was the estranged wife of Dantzler and both had Kamrie Heeren-Dantzler as a daughter; the suspect's relationship with Heeren was abusive.

Initial reports were that the handgun was a .40-caliber, but police later identified it as a 9 mm Glock pistol reported stolen 2 years earlier from a home northeast of Grand Rapids. It's not clear how Dantzler got the gun.


On the morning of July 8, 2011, flowers and other items were left outside of the home on Plainfield Avenue where the shootings occurred. Several residents expressed their grief concerning the murders onto MyGR6, a social media initiative sponsored by Amway, as well as praise on the Facebook page of the Grand Rapids Police Department. In addition, a thank you note was written in sidewalk chalk outside the Grand Rapids Police Department. Huntington Bank is also taking donations for the families of the shooting victims. Hundreds of people attended a vigil for the shooting victims at Ah-Nab-Awen Park, near the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, on the night of July 8, 2011. The candlelight vigil was organized by The Tolerance, Equality, and Awareness Movement , a tax-exempt human rights organization in Grand Rapids. A benefit was held July 9 to raise money for the funeral of the victims of the Emkens family.

On July 12, 2011, Grand Rapids mayor George Heartwell honored the Grand Rapids Police Department for their handling of the situation. A community church service for the victims was held on July 13, 2011 at Second Congregational Church, with approximately 200 people attending. The funeral service for the three members of the Emkens family killed was held on July 13, 2011 at St. Jude Catholic Church while the funeral for the four Heeren family members that were killed was held on July 15, 2011 at Sunshine Community Church. In addition, the funeral for Rodrick Dantzler was held on July 15, 2011 at Ivy K. Gillespie Moody Memorial Chapel.


Michigan gunman Rodrick Dantzler, who shot seven people dead before killing himself, abused cocaine

By Mike Jaccarino and Corky Siemaszko -

July 8, 2011

The Michigan madman who massacred seven people before offing himself "went out hunting people down," police said Friday.

Ex-con Rodrick Dantzler's victims included his 12-year-old daughter, a 10-year-old child, two ex-girlfriends and three other people, Grand Rapids Police Chief Kevin Belk said.

Investigators still don't know what made Dantzler snap, but he was known to be a drinker and cocaine abuser.

Also, one of Dantzler's targets literally escaped death by a nose, local TV reported.

Pickup driver Robert Poore, who was shot during the chase for Dantzler, told cops the bullet ricocheted off a titanium plate that had been inserted in his nose during cancer treatment when he was a child. He suffered only minor injuries.

Dantzler was holding some strangers hostage when he ended the drama Thursday by putting a bullet through his own head.

"He was talking about coming out, giving himself up," Belk said. "He decided at the last moment to fire the gun."

The hostages were unharmed.

Belk said they were still trying to come to grips with the havoc that the 34-year-old gunman wrought.

"It makes no sense to try to rationalize it, what the motives were," Belk said. "You just cannot come up with a logical reason why someone takes seven peoples' lives."

Dantzler did time for assault and was released in 2005, records showed. He had been under state supervision since then.

The deadly chaos began early Thursday afternoon when cops got a 911 call from a man who claimed to have killed three people, Belk said.

When cops arrived at Dantzler's house, he was gone.

Moments later there was another 911 call, this time from a woman who said three members of her family had been slaughtered.

Then there was yet another call from a frantic person who said four people were shot at another location.

When cops finally tracked Dantzler down, he led them on a high-speed chase through the downtown Grand Rapids, spraying bullets at pursuing squad cars and wounding two bystanders in the process.

With more than a dozen police cars chasing him, Dantzler jumped the median on Interstate 96 and barreled down the wrong side of the road as harried motorists dodged his SUV, cops said.

"I look in my rearview mirror and see this big white SUV coming up behind me," said Carrie Colacchio. "The only way to get out of it was to push the gas pedal."

Dantzler eventually ditched the car and barged into a home with his gun drawn, cops said.

While dozens of cops surrounded the house, negotiators pleaded with Dantzler to let his captives go. And just before midnight, he let a 53-year-old woman go.

The two others were still in the house when Dantzler killed himself.

The dead were identified as Dantzler's daughter, Kamrie Heeren, her mother, Jennifer, 29 and the girl's grandparents, Thomas Heeren, 51 and Rebecca Heeren, 52.

Dantzler also killed another ex-girlfriend, Kimberlee Ann Emkens, 23, her sister, Amanda Renee Emkens, 27 and Amanda's 10-year-old daughter, Marissa Lynn Emkens.


Rodrick Dantzler's daughter is determined to keep her siblings connected

By Heidi Fenton -

July 8, 2012

GRAND RAPIDS, MI -- In the aftermath of Rodrick Dantzler's mass shooting last summer, the community became familiar with the photographs of his seven victims, the youngest a smiling girl who was just 10.

Our hearts went out to their grieving families. But one group was left largely forgotten in the shadow of this tragedy: Dantzler's children.

When the 34-year-old shot himself while surrounded by police at the end of a day-long crime spree, his four surviving children lost a father. But they also lost a half-sister, and extended family they cared about who were among the slain. Two of the victims that day were Dantzler's 12-year-old daughter, Kamrie, and her mother, Jennifer Heeren.

"It was more hard to lose my sister,” Dantzler's 19-year-old daughter told MLive in a recent interview. She is not being identified.

With a sad smile, the teen recalled Kamrie as a little girl who years ago would follow her around calling her “My sissy.” Years ago, the two would sit together watching Kamrie’s Care Bears DVD’s.

The 19-year-old, a college student who hopes to be a lawyer someday, is the oldest of Dantzler's children. In the last year she's had to be strong for the younger ones and is determined that they keep their family ties, despite their father's death.

It hasn't been an easy road for these young people. The 19-year-old has heard the names some people use to describe her father. She's seen them on Facebook and texts. They strike somewhere deep, she said. They hurt.

The young woman said she doesn't know why the crimes occurred. Some of her questions just don't have answers.

In the days immediately following July 7, 2011, Dantzler's teenage daughter said she could not cry. Her mom was struggling. So were her father's family members, her close relatives. She knew there was something more she had to do.

“I was just trying to be strong for my grandma, mom and aunt.”

The teen and her mother are close, drawing strength from one another and a mutual faith in God. And while the mother said she tried so hard to shelter her daughter last July, her father’s face was everywhere. She told the teen not to watch the news or go on Facebook. She saw the notes that were there.

"People could be so judgmental," the mother said. "He still has kids that have to live on and do this for the rest of their lives.”

The 19-year-old said she has years of childhood memories she chooses to reflect on, rather than that day. The father and daughter didn’t spend a lot of time together in recent years. She grew up with her mother.

But she remembers occasional childhood trips to get ice cream and attending sporting events. It’s these times that give her confidence as she responds to texts from siblings. They communicate often.

“They don’t understand why people are the way they are,” the teen said. “I’m like, ‘Ignore them.’”

She offers the advice, taking very seriously her role as the oldest child.

“I feel responsible for them.”

And that’s how it’s always been, the teen's mother said with pride, speaking of her daughter’s respect for others, her optimism, her intense drive to succeed.

“She didn’t let it take her out of character. She still acted like the young woman I raised her to be.”

“God will never put more on you than you can handle,” the mother said. “I asked Him to not allow my daughter to be the one that’s vengeful. Life is what you make it. You have two options: you can either choose to go the right way or the wrong way.”

The teen's mother turned to God last July, praying constantly, and still credits her strong faith for helping her pull through.

And another thing — the close relationships she has with the mothers of her daughter's other siblings. They get together, usually for dinner, to make sure the children remain close. That has always been important.

“We all actually have been the support system for one another,” the teen's mother said.

The 19-year-old is pursuing a degree in criminal justice in hopes of fulfilling a years-long dream of becoming a lawyer. She’s opinionated, and wants to fight for others.

The teen's mother wants the best for her daughter, and for the other siblings, too.

A year after the tragedy, the 19-year-old speaks of all she has learned about family support. Just as they’ve leaned on her, she’s leaned on them. They need each other.

“Sometimes you might feel like you’re alone,” she said. “But you have to find the strength that’s within yourself to fight yourself out of a corner."


Rodrick Dantzler's neighbors say he was off bi-polar medication, going through separation when he killed 7, including wife, daughter

By John Agar -

July10, 2011

GRAND RAPIDS -- Rodrick Dantzler apparently was off bi-polar medication when he went on a murder rampage through Northeast Grand Rapids on Thursday.

“He just couldn’t possibly be in the right mind," said Dantzler's cousin Cannetha Collins, of Muskegon. "This was not a family he hated.”

Police say Dantzler shot and killed his wife, Jennifer Heeren, 29, their daughter, Kamrie, 12, and his wife’s parents, Thomas Heeren, 51, and Rebecca Hereen, 52, in the parents’ home at 1270 Brynell Court NE off Four Mile Road NW.

This clarifies earlier reports about Dantzler's relationship with Jennifer Heeren, which had indicated she was a longtime girlfriend. It also explains the original 911 police dispatch call in which a Dantzler's mother said she had received a call from her son, saying he had killed his wife.

Dantzler also killed a former girlfriend, Kimberlee Emkens, 23, her sister, Amanda Emkens, 27, and Marissa Emkens, 10, Amanda’s daughter, at the home of Patricia Emkens at 2046 Plainfield Ave. NE.

None of this makes any sense to his family other than this: Something in his mind went terribly wrong. Dantzler was receiving disability pay for bipolar disorder, neighbors added, and could only speculate what happened.

Police said he had been using cocaine and alcohol and was out of character for a fitness fanatic who avoided smoke from cigarettes, his family said.

Dantzler's neighbors on Janes Avenue NE offered a possible motive: They said his wife was planning to leave him this week or the next. They speculated it sparked the killings.

Neighbors, who requested anonymity saying they had concerns about safety after such violence, said it became apparent something was out of the ordinary over the Fourth of July weekend when the typically “active” house at 2047 Janes Ave. NE turned quiet.

They speculated something related to the couple’s reported separation and other unknown factors caused the rampage. “He must’ve just snapped,” one neighbor said.

Dantzler and Heeren were rarely seen with one another as of late, neighbors said. When they left the house, they left in separate vehicles.

This week, only Dantzler was home, and it seemed clear to them that Jennifer Heeren had left with their daughter Kamrie.

“It makes you just want to have said, ‘Shon, don’t do it,’” said one neighbor, referring to Dantzler by a nickname.



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