Florida State graduate Myron May seemed to change from a well-liked young attorney to would-be killer in a matter of months, stopped only by a fusillade of police bullets outside the library at his alma mater after he opened fire on students who dove between the stacks to escape.
Earlier this year, May, who went on to graduate from the Texas Tech law school, was a rookie prosecutor in New Mexico.
He was also beginning to fall apart.
May posted on his Facebook page links to information on alleged government mind-reading and believed the government was spying on him. He made rambling statements to the police and a former girlfriend. He abruptly quit his job and headed back to Florida, staying with friends and giving no hint about his plans until early Thursday morning when he headed to his old campus.
“Mr. May’s sense of being and place in our community was not what most people would refer to as a normal,” Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo said. “He had a sense of crisis and he was searching for something.”
At Stozier Library, about 450 students packed the library when May showed up and opened fire about 12:30 a.m. When police arrived, the 31-year-old 2005 graduate had wounded two students and an employee and reloaded his .380 semi-automatic pistol. He refused to put down the weapon and a gun battle erupted. Between May and police, 30 rounds were fired and the shooter was dead, killed by officers’ bullets.
May didn’t get past the lobby, but the sound of gunfire set off screams among students, who scrambled for cover among the bookshelves and barricaded themselves in rooms.
Senior Jason Derfuss, 21, of Orlando, told the Tallahassee Democrat he heard gunfire as he left and saw a man shoot at another person. Derfuss ran to his car and called 911 to report what he’d seen. After he got home, Derfuss dumped the contents of his backpack on the floor. He noticed several books were damaged, and then his roommate found a slug in the bag: a bullet had gone through a book about 14th-century philosopher John Wyclif.
“It was humbling to know that my life was in God’s hands right there and he graciously spared me,” Derfuss told the newspaper.
One person wounded in the shooting was in critical condition at a local hospital. Another, library staffer Nathan Scott, was in good condition at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. A third person was treated and released.
The school and library were expected to reopen Friday.
Friends called May sweet, smart and understated. He returned to Florida about three weeks ago, looking to get a new start in life.
“His fraternity nickname was `Sensitive Joe’ and it was fitting,” said state Rep. Matt Gaetz, who belonged to the same Florida State political club as May. “I was so surprised that someone with this docile nature would have something happen in their lives that would have this outcome.”
There were signs of his unraveling.
Police in Las Cruces, New Mexico, said a former girlfriend called to report he came to her home uninvited and claimed police were bugging his house and car. Danielle Nixon told police May recently developed “a severe mental disorder.”
“Myron began to ramble and handed her a piece to a car and asked her to keep it because this was a camera that police had put in his vehicle,” a police report said.
Police were still going through May’s writings and social media posts, but it was clear something was wrong.
“Mr. May had a written journal and videos where he expressed fears of being targeted and that he wanted to bring attention to this issue of targeting,” DeLeo said. “Mr. May was in a state of crisis.”
Abigail Taunton, who runs a foster home in the Florida Panhandle, let May stay in a guest house. She knew him as a teenager who moved to rural Wewahitchka in the Florida Panhandle to live with his grandmother after having problems with his parents in Ohio.
“We’re just all astounded,” Taunton said. “Obviously, he was not in his right mind.”
May was licensed to practice law in Texas and New Mexico and Taunton said he was preparing to take the Florida bar exam in February.
“He was having some financial issues and moved back home and decided he’d come back to Florida to work,” she said. “My heart’s broken.”
In New Mexico, Third Judicial District Attorney Mark D’Antonio said May worked for his office as a junior attorney from Jan. 18 until his unexpected resignation Oct. 6. He said he didn’t know why May stepped down, leaving a formal resignation letter on his desk.
“He performed his job with great distinction,” D’Antonio said at a news conference. “He was friendly and kind. Everyone liked him.”
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.