July 7, 2011: Worst Mass Murder in Grand Rapids

Do you remember where you were on the afternoon and evening of July 7, 2011. If you are from Grand Rapids, you will probably remember once you know what happened that day. It was a day that anyone in this area will remember the rest of their life. It was the day of the worst mass murder in Grand Rapids’ history.

It all started at about 2:30 in the afternoon with a call about a possible shooting on Janes St. NE. Police begin looking for Rodrick Dantzler. At about 4 pm a total of 7 bodies are found — two are children .Three bodies were found at a home on Plainfield, and four more at a home on Brynell Court.

At one point the Grand Rapids Police Department and Dantzler exchange gun fire at the intersection of Division and Fulton in downtown Grand Rapids. The chase continues north on US-131 to I-96 and then west on I-96. Dantzler eventually flees the vehicle and escapes on foot. He then breaks into a home on Rickman and holds the people inside hostage.

While all of this was unfolding, I was glued to my television, radio and my computer.

This was probably the first big news story for me that unfolded through social media. I continued to watch my Facebook and Twitter feeds as people would report the information that they had. I listened to the police scanner through my computer as well. At times I was hearing things on the scanner that I was afraid to report on any social media. At one point I heard an officer, who had actually gotten inside the home on Rickman, describing what he saw. I wondered at the time just how much access to any of media that Dantzler might have had. Were TV and radio stations, along with social media, reporting too much?

By about 11:30 pm the story was over. The hostages were safe and Dantzler ended up killing himself.

Dead were:
Marissa Lynn Emkens, age 10
Amanda Emkens, age 27
Kimberlee Emkens, age 23
Jennifer M. Heeren, age 29
Kamrie Heeren-Dantzler, age 12
Thomas S. Heeren, age 51
Rebecca L. Heeren, age 52

For a very detailed description of the events of that day, mlive.com put together this timeline. You have to read it from the bottom up, as the information was being added to the top as details became available.

This is one of those “moments in history” that I will never forget where I was, or what I was doing on the day of July 7, 2011.

A sad day indeed in Grand Rapids history.

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  1. Joan (Ball) Polkowski
    July 7, 2017 - 6:10 pm

    2nd to that may be our classmate Mary Dykhouse who lost 2 sisters, one other boyfriend and a babyboy, 6 mo. old before the mental illness boyfriend shot himself. A blessing was her niece, 8yrs old was outside playing with a neighbor. How horrible for that young girl to walk in to find 5 bodies
    She has grown into a special woman I hold in my heart, a mother of two and a supportive person to all who have challenges in their lives
    Truly amazing! They are a very private family but I can’t help but share the good ending to a horrible event that touched so many people.

  2. Rich Karelse
    July 7, 2017 - 10:03 pm

    I delivered the eulogy for the Herren family, all four. Indeed a day that is as clear as yesterday.

  3. Jason
    July 7, 2018 - 9:39 am

    We were living up north when that happened and I was following on Social Media and an internet police scanner as well. We couldn’t believe this was happening in Grand Rapids! A crazed lunatic on a deadly rampage in my hometown? But it did happen and was indeed a sad day in Grand Rapids history. Sad that the cops didn’t just kill the guy right away. I always wondered what really happened on Fulton and Division? The Cop Shop is right there! How does he win a gun fight and escape and allowed to take innocent people hostage? Maybe its because for the most part, Grand Rapids doesn’t have a lot of big city problems and the cops weren’t prepared for someone like that. 7 dead is too many, but it could have been worse!


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