When Allison, a 22-year-old student at the University of the District of Columbia, decided to stay home on Friday, she felt lucky to have missed the nearby sniper-style shooting that took place that afternoon.
When she later saw a picture of the suspected gunman on TV and realized they had gone to middle school together, she screamed.
“Thank God I wasn’t there yesterday—I was supposed to be there for a ceremony, but I decided not to go,” Allison told The Daily Beast on Saturday. “It’s really surreal that my former classmate would actually shoot at, or near, my university… It’s just so horrible, because all my advisors were there, my lab mates, my friends. And it’s hard not to get angry about that, because in just a few minutes, he could have destroyed some of the best things in my life.”
Raymond Spencer, 23, was named as a suspect by D.C. Metro Police in the afternoon attack, and died by suicide as cops closed in. He allegedly fired dozens of shots from his fifth-floor apartment window in Northwest D.C., near buildings and housing affiliated with UDC, Howard University, and the Edmund Burke prep school, wounding three adults and a 12-year-old girl. Officers discovered Spencer’s body lying on his bathroom floor hours after the shooting began, dead from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, Chief Robert Contee III said at a press conference.
“His intent was to kill and hurt members of our community,” Contee said. “It just appears that this person was just shooting at anyone who was out there randomly.”
Spencer filmed the attack and posted the horrifying footage online. He left digital breadcrumbs that investigators subsequently found, including posts on the 4chan message board saying, among other things, “Dear God please forgive me.” Spencer also edited the Edmund Burke Wikipedia page after the terrifying incident, writing, “A gunman shot at the school on April 22, 2022. The suspect is still at large.” The revised entry linked to a profile in Spencer’s name, in which he was described as “proudly uncircumcised” and an “AR-15 aficionado.”
Allison, who asked that her real name not be used in this article, is still trying to make sense of what happened, describing Spencer as “the nicest kid in our grade.” He had one older brother in the grade above, and a younger brother in the grade below, Allison said.
“I just wanted to make this information known because it feels like no one else has come forward,” she said. “And that’s really weird, because it’s not like he was a loner… He’s the last person I would expect to do something like this. He was the most quiet kid. He didn’t really talk a lot. But he always smiled when you talked to him. Like, this isn’t the person that I knew 10 years ago.”
Allison knew Spencer for three years, in grades 6 through 8. They attended the same Catholic school in Rockville, Maryland, which she said was “known for being tough in discipline, but also having really good academics.” The student body was very diverse, because tuition was more reasonable than other schools in the area, according to Allison.
“And they took a lot of students who might be having problems in public school, like they might be getting bullied, or they might have [a learning disability],” she said. “So for example, if there was a student with ADHD, then they would be accommodated by the staff. And that’s actually part of why I was there, because my mom was worried about me getting bullied in public school. I was a shy kid. And there were a lot of kids like that.”
Spencer was the shortest kid in his class, standing eye-to-eye with Allison, who said she was five-feet tall at the time. She said he made friends easily with others at school, which was small enough that “everyone knew each other.” Still, Allison said Spencer “didn’t really socialize with people,” although he didn’t exhibit any violent tendencies and “nothing really stood out about him.”
After 8th grade, Spencer transferred to a public high school, where he ran cross country. The next time Allison saw him, he was being named on TV as the suspect in a mass shooting.
In a photo of Spencer’s apartment released by the Metro PD, a picture hanging on the wall appeared to depict Yakub, a mythical Black scientist written about by Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad, which has now been mockingly turned into an anti-Black meme by 4chan denizens.
Allison said she isn’t sure if Spencer got caught up in one of “these different movements, [like] the incel thing,” but added, “I don’t think it was really that deep.”
“I’m pretty sure he already wanted to commit suicide, but he was afraid of not being remembered,” she said. “So he appealed to these internet movements because he knew that people would continue to make conspiracies about his life, as if it was some kind of thing. The truth is kind of devastatingly simple.”
Spencer’s actions were “really cynical,” said Allison, noting that she understands “he did commit something really evil.”
“But it doesn’t help to demonize people,” she said, sobbing quietly. “Because it came from somewhere. And as long as we don’t try to understand other people, this kind of thing will keep happening in this country.”