Michigan school shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley told school officials that his “concerning” drawings were for “a video game he was designing” just hours before he allegedly shot dead four students and wounded seven others, it has been revealed.
Oxford Community Schools Superintendent Tim Thorne sent a letter to parents and the wider community on Saturday detailing the school’s version of the events leading up to Tuesday’s massacre at Oxford High School.
In the letter, obtained by WXYZ, Mr Thorne said that on Monday, one day before the shooting, the 15-year-old suspect was caught looking up photos of bullets on his phone during a class.
When he met with a counsellor and other staff members about the incident that day - the first of two meetings with staff in the days prior to the mass shooting - Ethan told them that he and his mother had recently gone to a shooting range and that shooting sports were a family hobby, wrote Mr Throne.
The school attempted to contact his mother but didn’t get a response until the next day, when his parents confirmed his account, he said.
The next day - the morning of the shooting - a teacher found a disturbing note on the suspect’s desk depicting a gun, a bullet, a shooting victim and a laughing emoji, prosecutors revealed this week.
The words “thoughts won’t stop, help me”, “the world is dead” and “my life is useless” were scrawled on the note.
In the letter, Mr Thorne said the teenager had claimed the drawings were part of his plans to pursue a career in video games and duped counsellors and school staff into believing he did not pose a risk to himself or to anyone else.
“The student was immediately removed from the classroom and brought to the guidance counselor’s office where he claimed the drawing was part of a video game he was designing and informed counselors that he planned to pursue video game design as a career,” according to the letter.
Mr Thorne said that the teenager’s parents James and Jennifer Crumbley were called into the school and that “because it was difficult to reach the parents”, Ethan sat in the office for an hour and a half being observed by counsellors.
“At no time did counselors believe the student might harm others based on his behavior, responses and demeanor, which appeared calm,” the letter said, adding that the alleged gunman claimed to be concerned about missing his science homework assignment.
It is not yet clear if the firearm used in the attack was in the suspect’s backpack in the room at the time, Mr Thorne said.
According to the letter, when the Crumbleys arrived, the 15-year-old was “asked specific probing questions” with his answers leading them to “conclude he did not intend on committing either self-harm or harm to others”.
The Crumbleys were told they had 48 hours to get their son counselling or the school would contact Child Protective Services.
The couple failed to tell the school that their son had access to a gun or that they had recently bought him a gun, the letter said.
The Crumbleys also “flatly refused” to take their son home, despite the requests of school staff, leading officials to decide to let him to return to the classroom “rather than… an empty house”.
“When the parents were asked to take their son home for the day, they flatly refused and left without their son, apparently to return to work,” the letter said.
The 15-year-old returned to the classroom. Just hours later, he allegedly exited a bathroom armed with a firearm and opened fire in the hallway as students and staff were changing classes.
Students Tate Myre, 16, Hana St. Juliana, 14, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Justin Shilling, 17, were all killed in the rampage, while one teacher and six other students were wounded.
The letter also insisted that concerns mentioned in a letter to parents last month were unrelated to the shooting that unfolded at the high school less than weeks later.
“At this time, we agree with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office assessment that previous incidents, including those addressed in the Nov. 12 communication to families, are unrelated to the events of Nov. 30,” wrote Mr Thorne.
On November 12, the district sent a letter to parents about “rumors” which had “created some concern for students and parents”.
The letter stated that, following investigation by the school, it had been found that there were no threats to students or the school.
School officials said that a third-party investigation is currently underway into the school’s handling of the events leading up to the shooting as questions continue to mount over officials’ potential culpability for the violence that rocked the tight-knit community of Oxford.
The suspect was arrested on the scene of the shooting on Tuesday and has been charged with 24 counts as an adult including four counts of first-degree murder and one count of terrorism.
His motive for the attack is unclear.
The Crumbleys have also been charged in connection to the shooting with four counts of involuntary manslaughter each after they allegedly bought their son the firearm as a Christmas present four days before the mass shooting and ignored multiple warning signs of the impending violence.
They were arrested on Saturday after briefly appearing to go on the run, taking $4,000 cash from an ATM, switching off their mobile phones and failing to appear for their arraignment Friday.
They were tracked down and arrested hiding out inside an art studio in Detroit in the early hours of Saturday morning - close to the Canadian border.
All three Crumbleys have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
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