By David Fleet
East Lansing —On the evening of Feb. 13, Michigan State Sophomore Noel Harrison along with a group of friends were celebrating birthdays at Lou and Harry’s Bar & Grill just north of campus on East Grand River Ave. The local eatery is across the street from the MSU Union.
“Our group had just walked in to eat and were getting ready to sit down when all our phones started to go off with alerts,” said Harrison, 19, a 2021 Brandon High School graduate and business student.
“We did not know what to think, we’d had these types of alerts from police before. Then people started to get phone calls about a shooter at Berkey Hall and then the Union. It just happened so fast. We started freaking out, we did not even get to order and they started locking the doors of the bar.”
The shelter-in-place issued for campus and the surrounding community received by Harrison and friends was due to Anthony McRae, a 43-year-old man with no connection to MSU, who walked in a Berkey Hall classroom and opened fire, hitting several victims. The shooter then went next door to the MSU Union, located just west of Berkey where the armed assault continued.
Other members of Harrison’s group were outside the bar waiting to get in while the shooting was ongoing, she recalled.
“So half our group was outside the bar on Grand River and the other half were inside during the lock-down,” she said.
The group exited through a backdoor and proceeded down an ally parallel to Grand River Ave. across from the Union. Together they walked to Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity house a few blocks away.
“We finally sheltered-in-place at the frat house,” she said. “The guys barricaded the doors and we hid in a bedroom upstairs.”
Harrison texted friends and parents that she was safe.
“One friend I texted was in my dorm, one friend was at the gym where he was safe and one of my friends worked at the Union,” she said.
That friend was Brian Fraser.
“I thought about him because we knew his work schedule at the Union, it was Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,” she said. “Once we got the notification and knew where the shooting was we called Brian. We had no clue at the time he was a victim. We figured he was safe somewhere, or did not have his phone or dropped it and could not answer.”
Fraser worked in a dining hall at the Union. He also lived on the third floor at Landon Hall and met Harrison on Open-Door-Night last summer.
“I texted him, ‘Brian are you OK, please text me’” she recalled. “Periodically through that night I just kept texting him.”
According to police, following the attack, McRae walked a few miles toward his Lansing home. He said nothing before he killed himself after being confronted by police. Recovered were two handguns, ammunition and a note with a possible motive.
The police scanners were reporting there had been fatalities, she recalled.
“I had a gut feeling something had happened to Brian,” she said. “We were praying it was not him.”
Harrison was at the frat house for about four hours until her parents drove from Ortonville to pick her up.
“I did not want to leave the room,” she said.
Some of the guys walked her to the car and she returned home.
The next morning, Feb. 14 a friend called Harrison and notified her that Brian did not make it and was the single Union victim.
In addition to Brian Fraser of Grosse Pointe, Arielle Anderson also of Grosse Pointe, and Alexandria Verner, of Clawson were killed in the attack.
Fraser, 20, was a sophomore at MSU and a member of Phi Delta Theta where he studied economics.
On Feb. 17, Harrison attended Brian’s visitation and the funeral at St. Paul on the Lake Parish in Grosse Pointe Farms, his childhood parish. She returned to the Landon Hall on Sunday along with other friends.
“I knew Brian for a short amount of time,” she said. “He was loved by his fraternity brothers, his floor at Landon, co-workers and classmates. He was the kind of person when he walks in the room and smiles the room lights. We called him ‘Prince Charming.’”
Harrison said Brian impacted had not only her and his MSU classmates, but his whole fraternity.
“Brian was someone the brothers looked up to and talked to,” she said. “Brian was an incredibly amazing and irreplaceable guy who left an impact on hundreds of people here and forever will have a place in so many people’s hearts.”
Harrison contemplated the return to classes and life at MSU.
“I have no fear returning to campus,” she said. “We have a system here and it works. We had numerous amounts police responding to the shooting, and they are still showing up to support the community. It’s going to be hard from a personal and emotional aspect to return to class. But, it does not change how I feel about the school. Obviously the shootings should not have happened, but the strength that has grown from the situation overpowers any fear from going back. I am not alone.”
According to Lansing Sparrow Hospital, as of Feb. 23, one student was in fair condition; two students were in serious condition but stable; one student remained in critical condition and one student had been sent home.
By David Fleet