April 17, 1981 marked one of the darkest days in University history. By the end of the day, two students were shot dead and another was in police custody. Leo Kelly, a 22-year-old psychology major, threw several Molotov cocktail fire bombs down the sixth floor of Bursley Residence Hall's Douglas wing around dawn that morning.

The petitioner Leo Kelly was a student at the University of Michigan. On April 17, 1981, Kelly threw a "Molotov cocktail" into the hallway at Bursley Hall, the predominantly freshmen dormitory in which he was living. When students came into the hall from their rooms Kelly began firing at them with a sawed-off shotgun. Edward Siwik, a freshman student, and Douglas McGreaham, a resident advisor, were shot and killed. Both victims were white; Leo Kelly is black.