Oxford High School shooting: Everything we know about deadly Michigan attack and suspect Ethan Crumbley

Fifteen-year-old suspect Ethan Crumbley is denied request to move to juvenile facility as he is held without bond on 24 charges including first-degree murder and terrorism

Joe Sommerlad,Megan Sheets ,Rachel Sharp
Tuesday 14 December 2021 14:55
James and Jennifer Crumbley back in court Tuesday after being charged with involuntary manslaughter

Four students were killed and seven other people injured in a mass shooting at a suburban high school in Michigan on 30 November.

The suspected shooter, 15-year-old sophomore Ethan Crumbley, was taken into custody by police at the scene at Oxford High School in Oxford Township, a community of 22,000 people 30 miles north of Detroit, and a semi-automatic handgun was recovered.

The teenager was charged as an adult with one count of terrorism, four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder, 12 counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Taken together, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole if he is found guilty.

Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said the charges stemmed from “undeniable” evidence that the attack was premeditated.

The teenager has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He appeared in court for a probable cause hearing on 13 December, where his legal team requested that he be moved out of the adult Oakland County Jail to a juvenile facility so that he can have access to schooling.

Because he is under 18, the suspect was initially kept in juvenile detention, but a judge accepted the prosecution’s request the day after the shooting to have him transferred to Oakland County Jail.

The request to relocate him again - made by Mr Crumbley’s newly court-appointed guardian Deborah McKelvy, was turned down by the judge after prosecutors argued the nature of his alleged crime shows he could pose a threat to other minors.

The probable cause conference was adjourned and a new date set for 7 January while the discovery of evidence is ongoing.

Mr Crumbley’s parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley, were arrested on charges related to the shooting on 4 December following an overnight manhunt. They each pleaded not guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Prosecutors said the Crumbleys bought the gun for their son on Black Friday as a Christmas present and were aware of warning signs ahead of the shooting, but did not remove him from the school and left the gun accessible to him.

The parents were alerted about Mr Crumbley’s concerning behaviour twice in the hours before the shooting - first the day before when he was caught searching for ammunition during class.

Jennifer Crumbley reportedly texted her son in response: “LOL I’m not made at you, you have to learn not to get caught.”

On the morning of the shooting, the parents were called in after a teacher found a note on Mr Crumbley’s desk with a drawing of a handgun, a bullet and a shooting victim, along with the words: “The thoughts won’t stop, help me.”

Prosecutors said the teen may have had the handgun in his backpack when he met with school officials and his parents.

Tim Throne, the superintendent of Oxford Community Schools, said in a letter to parents that Mr Crumbley had claimed his drawing was for a video game he was designing and that counsellors believed he did not pose a threat to himself or others.

Mr Throne said that school officials requested the Crumbleys take their son out of school but the parents refused.

School officials did not carry out a search of his backpack or locker and he was allowed to return to class.

Ethan Crumbley, 15, is seen in his booking photo

Three hours later, surveillance video purportedly showed Mr Crumbley emerging from a bathroom and opening fire on classmates.

County undersheriff Mike McCabe said the suspect had not offered any resistance when he was apprehended - within five minutes of the first 911 call being received – and that a motive for the attack had not yet been established, the boy having invoked his right to an attorney and declined to speak to officers.

Upon hearing reports of an active shooter situation, Jennifer Crumbley reportedly texted her son: “Ethan, don’t do it.”

Investigators said he had boasted on his Instagram page about a gun that his father had purchased on Black Friday.

It was also revealed that he had written in detail about his fantasies of committing violence toward his fellow students in his journal.

Hours before he started shooting, Mr Crumbley had written on Instagram: “Now I become death – destroyer of worlds  – see you tomorrow Oxford.”

During his arraignment on 1 December, Oakland County sheriff’s lieutenant Tim Willis told Judge Nancy Carniak that a search of the teen’s home had turned up “two separate videos recovered from Ethan’s cellphone made by him the night before the incident, wherein he talked about shooting and killing students the next day at Oxford High School”.

The four students killed in the shooting on Tuesday at the Oxford High School were Tate Myre, 16; Hanna St Julian, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17 and Justin Shilling, 17.

Myre, a popular member of the school’s football team who is said to have attempted to disarm the shooter, succumbed to his wounds in a patrol car as a deputy tried to rush him to hospital.

Six of the injured victims were also students and the eighth was a teacher. All of the wounded were cared for in local hospitals with the last remaining hospitalised victim leaving intensive care on 9 December.

Oakland County officials had been quick to praise the actions of Oxford High School, with the local sheriff saying in the aftermath: “There was an orderly evacuation, the school did everything right. Everybody remained in place. They barricaded themselves.”

Jennifer and James Crumbley pictured in their mugshots after their arrest

However, since then, the school has faced pointed questions over its handling of Mr Crumbley’s disturbing behaviour prior to the attack and their decision to allow him to stay in school.

Superintendent Throne sent a letter to the community announcing that a third-party investigation had been launched into its handling of the situation.

Last week, two students who survived the massacre became the first to file a lawsuit against the school district and school officials for failing to protect students from what they describe as the “deranged” and “homicidal” suspect.

The siblings, one of whom was shot in the neck in the attack, are seeking $100m in damages.

In a court filing on 10 December, their attorneys then accused the school of destroying evidence including deleting social media accounts and scrubbing the school website of administrators in the wake of the attack.

Attorneys for the school district called the allegations “a lie” and “disgusting” and a judge has ordered the school to keep all evidence related to the case.

Prosecutor McDonald has not ruled out bringing criminal charges against school officials.

Chilling footage emerging from the incident showed students running for cover and classroom doors being barred with chairs as Mr Crumbley stalked the halls, having emerged from a bathroom at approximately 12.51pm and firing off between 15 and 20 shots from multiple magazines.

Police said he had used a Sig Sauer semi-automatic pistol that his father had bought on Black Friday, just four days earlier.

Ethan Crumbley appearing for his arraignment on 1 December on 24 charges

Aiden Page, a senior at the school, said a bullet pierced a desk he and his peers had used to barricade the classroom door.

“We grabbed calculators, we grabbed scissors just in case the shooter got in and we had to attack them,” he added.

Other pupils later recounted stories of their teachers leading them out of harm’s way and making calls to try to determine whether the order to leave was just a practice drill or a real active-shooter incident.

Parents were told to avoid the campus and instead to meet their children in the parking lot of a nearby Meijer store.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Robin Redding, mother to Oxford 12th grader Treshan Bryant, commented: “This couldn’t be just random. Kids just, like they’re just mad at each other at this school.”

Her son added that he had not attended classes on 30 November because he had a bad feeling about the day’s events and indicated that he had heard threats about a potential shooting “for a long time now”.

“You’re not supposed to play about that,” he said. “This is real life.”

But Sheriff Bouchard denied that threats had been received in advance, commenting: “There was no prior information shared with the Sheriff’s Office or the School Resource Officer before the incident.”

The Crumbleys were charged with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter three days after the shooting, before appearing to go on the run and failing to show for their arraignment.

Police said they were located in the early hours of 4 December “hiding” inside an acquaintance’s art studio in Detroit - close to the Canadian border.

They are due to appear in court for a probable cause conference on 14 December.

They are currently being held in the same jail as their son but are unable to have contact with him.

The parents have hired two high-powered attorneys to represent themselves but appear to have distanced themselves from their son and declined to pay for his legal bills. Instead, the 15-year-old has been appointed a public defender because he cannot afford to pay for his own defence.

A makeshift memorial outside of Oxford High School following the massacre

An open letter that Mr Crumbley’s mother Jennifer wrote to Donald Trump in November 2016 has emerged since the attack.

In a pro-gun post to her blog, she told the 45th president: “As a female and a Realtor, thank you for allowing my right to bear arms. Allowing me to be protected if I show a home to someone with bad intentions. Thank you for respecting that Amendment.”

In the immediate aftermath, several lawmakers spoke out to condemn the violence.

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a statement, offering her condolences to the Oxford community, thanking first responders and speaking out on what she called a “crisis” of gun violence.

“As Michiganders, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect each other from gun violence,” Governor Whitmer said.

“No one should be afraid to go to school, work, a house of worship, or even their own home. Gun violence is a public health crisis that claims lives every day. We have the tools to reduce gun violence in Michigan. This is a time for us to come together and help our children feel safe at school.”

President Joe Biden was kept abreast of the situation and said that his “heart goes out to the families enduring the unimaginable grief of losing a loved one”.

“You’ve gotta know that that whole community has to be just in a state of shock right now,” he said from Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, Minnesota.

Since then, the father of a victim of the 2018 school shooting ast Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has been camped outside the White House demanding action from the president to address the gun violence epidemic.

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