Crowd gathers outside hospital of organ-donating victim of Michigan school shooting

Justin Shilling and three other students died after a classmate allegedly opened fire indiscriminately in their high school earlier this week

Stuti Mishra
Saturday 04 December 2021 06:41

Related: US prosecutors charge parents of accused Michigan school shooter

A crowd of hundreds gathered outside a Michigan hospital on Friday in support of Justin Shilling, one of the victims of the Oxford High School mass shooting earlier this week, as his body was moved into surgery for organ donation.

The 17-year-old was proclaimed dead on Wednesday, a day after the fatal shooting. Four students were killed and seven others were injured after their classmate allegedly opened fire indiscriminately in the halls of the high school.

Justin’s family has decided to donate his organs to Florida-based NGO Gift of Life. His body was kept on life support in the McLaren Oakland Hospital until the organs could be harvested.

While his parents said their goodbyes to their son and the body was taken in for surgery, community members gathered outside with signboards for a honour walk — a common practice when a patient’s family chooses to donate organs.

Follow live updates on the Michigan school shooting

The crowd consisted of students from Oxford High School, their friends, medical staff and emergency workers. Many of them wept and clapped for the Shillings as they appeared briefly on an overhead walkway. Some children held signs that read “Oxford Strong, RIP Justin”.

“We’re in this together” was written on the back of the jacket of a student who had gathered at the hospital, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Paramedics and firefighters also joined the crowd. Downtown Pontiac almost looked like it was in a state of shutdown as essential workers joined in support of the family.

In a video posted by journalist Allie Gross, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard was seen addressing the crowd.

“It means a great deal to them, clearly. To everybody. Thank you so very much for being here,” he said on behalf of the family, adding that they were obviously emotional right now. “Take care of each other, talk to each other, support each other. This isn’t supposed to be happening and it’s not supposed to happen.”

The teenager’s family also released a statement on Friday. “The loss of Justin leaves such a gaping hole in our family that we cannot conceive of life without him,” the statement read. “Our hearts are broken and yet still go out to the other families suffering this very same loss at this very same moment and which is beyond imagination, nothing any family should have to endure.”

Meanwhile, community members gathered in downtown Oxford on Friday evening to hold a vigil for the students who died in the shooting. Bells were rung across the city for four minutes — a minute for each student. There was brief chaos after a person passed out, leading to people pushing each other to get out of the way. But no one was injured, according to Fox 2 Detroit.

The suspected shooter was identified on Wednesday as 15-year-old sophomore Ethan Crumbley. He is facing a slew of charges, including terrorism and first-degree murder. He is currently being held without bond at the Oakland County Jail on 24 charges.

His parents have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the deadly massacre. A manhunt has been launched for them, even as their lawyers insisted they had not gone missing and intended to respond to the manslaughter charges.

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