The Peabody community was rocked Monday morning as the name of a victim in a shooting on campus at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, became known as former Peabody resident Ethan Schmidt.
A 1994 graduate of Peabody High School, Schmidt had been shot and killed as he sat in his office at the university. Fellow Delta State professor Shannon Lamb was identified early as a suspect in Schmidt’s death.
Ethan attended Peabody Christian Church growing up. Minister Jim Pohlman said he was with Ethan’s parents Tom and Susie Schmidt shortly after they received the news.
“They were simply devastated, totally devastated,” he said. “I have never seen Tom Schmidt when he was not in complete control of his emotions. This broke him down fully and he kept asking ‘why, why, why?’ But there was no answer to that.”
Pohlman said Schmidts were contacted by Cleveland law enforcement shortly after the shooting. Tom Schmidt was at work at Knipp Equipment in Wichita and Susie took the call.
“She said they had no clue about a motive or what happened, just that someone had walked into his office, shot him, and escaped, and that Ethan was dead,” Pohlman said.
Tom and Susie left Monday with their son Jeff to go to Mississippi.
“I always said Ethan was the kind of boy most people wish they had raised,” he said. “After he and Liz married and the kids came along, I had chances to see him interact with his family. He taught by example and no one could have been crazier about their children. He was a loving dad.”
Debra Lilly, close friend of Tom and Susie, said Ethan was a special person.
“He was just such a nice guy. Even as a young child, he was considerate, always giving, and caring about others,” she said. “And after he got married and had his own kids, when they would come to Peabody for Fourth of July, he would stop by and ask how I was doing. He was a very kind person.”
Jason Rucker, also a member of PHS class of 1994, was one of Ethan’s closest friends.
“We played together in grade school and had similar academic and extra-curricular interests in junior high and high school,” he said. “We played football, were on newspaper staff, in forensics, quiz bowl, and ended up staying in school longer than most of our graduating class because he was in grad school forever and I was in vet school forever.”
They were each part of the other’s wedding party.
“When we had his bachelor party, I was best man and one of Ethan’s fraternity brothers informed me that night that I was responsible for paying for the keg. Well, I was a starving college student and had nowhere near enough money on me to do that,” he said. “Ethan’s brothers scraped up enough from the others to help pay the tab. I was pretty relieved!”
Rucker is a veterinarian in Aurora, Colorado. He has returned to Peabody with his family for July Fourth and looked forward to seeing Ethan if they both were in town.
“We had the kind of friendship where we can just pick up where we left of and start talking,” he said. “I can’t imagine anyone not liking Ethan — he was a great man. The world was a better place with Ethan in it.”
Late Monday night, Mississippi law enforcement officers isolated 45-year-old Lamb, whom they suspected was Schmidt’s killer. Before they could make an arrest, Lamb shot himself in the head and died.