Man who killed 7, self in spree left suicide note

October 4, 2011 - 12:45 PM
Grand Rapids Shooting Spree

This photo provided by the Grand Rapids police via WOOD-TV shows Rodrick Dantzler, 34, an ex-convict who shot and killed seven people and wounded two others before fatally shooting himself in Grand Rapid, Mich., on July 7, 2011. Police planned to release audio and video recordings in the case on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011. (AP Photo/Grand Rapids Police via WOOD-TV)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — An ex-convict who killed seven people in July before taking his own life in a Grand Rapids shooting spree had pledged in a suicide note to take his mother-in-law "with me."

Grand Rapids police released new information about the case Tuesday, including video and audio recordings.

Officials probably won't ever know with certainty why Rodrick Dantzler fatally shot a former girlfriend, his estranged wife, his 12-year-old daughter and four others related to them, including his mother-in law, police Chief Kevin Belk said.

Dantzler's suicide note "obviously indicated his frustration" with his estranged wife and her parents, Belk said. "Why he continues his rampage throughout the day . . . I don't think we'll ever know."

Dantzler shot at four police officers July 7 as he led them on a 12-minute chase through city streets and nearby highways, a prosecutor's report said. He wounded two people in downtown Grand Rapids during the chase and took three people hostage in a four-hour standoff. At one point he shot at a hostage. One was released before Dantzler killed himself.

The 34-year-old fueled himself during the rampage with frequent snorts of cocaine, police said.

He told a friend who was with him that day that he was upset with his estranged wife, Jennifer Heeren-Dantzler, 29, because she had taken his 12-year-old daughter for three days and not returned her.

In a suicide note left for his mother, he complained, "it seems like everyone that loves me walk (sic) out of my life."

Dantzler blamed his mother-in-law for talking Heeren-Dantzler into leaving him, writing, "I dont (sic) have anything nice 2 say about her! I gonna take her with me!!!"

Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth said police found an empty 12-shot clip at his in-laws' home and a 30-shot clip with all but three bullets gone with Dantzler where he died.

"It would appear that he was simply a very angry man who ... 'just lost it,'" Forsyth wrote in his report on the shootings. "Driven by anger and emboldened by alcohol and cocaine, he murdered his in-laws, his wife and his daughter. He next murdered Kimberlee, Amanda and Marissa Emkens."

Dantzler previously dated Kimberlee Ann Emkens, 23. He also killed her sister, Amanda Renee Emkens, 27, and her niece, Marissa Lynn Emkens, 10.

Dantzler had a criminal record as far back as 1992, when he was charged as a juvenile with breaking and entering and car theft. That was followed over the next eight years by charges of trespassing, domestic violence, destruction of property, larceny and assault.

He couldn't legally own a firearm because of his criminal record but used a stolen .40-caliber handgun in the shootings.

The others killed in the shooting spree were Dantzler's 12-year-old daughter, Kamrie Deann Heeren-Dantzler; his mother-in-law, 52-year-old Rebecca Lynn Heeren; and his father-in-law, 51-year-old Thomas Heeren.