OXFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. – The 15-year-old student accused of firing on his classmates at a suburban high school, killing four and injuring seven Tuesday, faced a slew of criminal counts Wednesday as authorities released more details about the events leading up to the attack.
Prosecutor Karen McDonald identified the teen as Oxford High School sophomore Ethan Crumbley, noting he would be tried as an adult on charges including first-degree murder and terrorism. The suspect pleaded not guilty to all charges. District Court Judge Nancy Carniak denied bond.
Authorities said they found a video made the day before the attack in which the suspect threatened to shoot and kill students and a journal where he wrote about murdering classmates. Sheriff Michael Bouchard noted the suspect’s “concerning behavior” at the high school, including an incident that forced his parents to come to the school less than three hours before the attack.
Sheriff’s deputies said the suspect fired about 30 bullets at the school in Oxford Township, a suburb about 35 miles north of Detroit.
Authorities said the teen used a handgun purchased by his father on Black Friday, days before the attack. McDonald said her office was considering criminal charges against the suspect’s parents. She said responsible gun ownership is crucial to helping stop tragedies, and “those who do not do that should be – and will be – held accountable.”
McDonald went through the list of victims, including a fourth who died Wednesday: Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Justin Shilling, 17. McDonald noted she is a parent and would “treat this case like these are my own children.”
She said there was a “mountain of digital evidence,” including videos and social media posts that show the attack was planned “well before” Tuesday.
Authorities said the suspect came to the school with a plan.
“He came out with the intent to kill people. He was shooting people at close range, oftentimes toward the head or chest,” Bouchard said on CNN early Wednesday. “It’s chilling. It’s just absolutely cold-hearted murderous.”
Students described a chaotic scene Tuesday after a voice came over the intercom to announce an active shooter. Some didn’t know whether it was a drill. Teachers rushed to lock and barricade doors and cover windows. Students were in tears and texted loved ones.
Abbey Hodder, 15, a sophomore, was in chemistry class when she thought she heard glass breaking.
“My teacher kind of ran out and was scrambling,” she said, describing how she and her classmates followed their active-shooter training. “The next thing I knew I saw he was pushing tables. It’s part of school protocol to barricade, so we all knew, barricade, barricade down. And we all started pushing tables.”
Suspect’s father bought gun days earlier; possible warning signs investigated
Bouchard said that the suspect’s father bought the gun Friday and that the teen appeared to post images of the gun online days before the shooting.
Undersheriff Michael McCabe acknowledged there were rumors about warning signs, which were being investigated. One parent told The Associated Press that her son was not in school over fears something could happen.
“He just said that ‘Ma, I don’t feel comfortable. None of the kids that we go to school with are going today,'” Robin Redding, who has a son in 12th grade, told the news agency.
In court Wednesday, authorities read aloud the arrest warrant for the suspect, detailing a video he made the night before the attack when he “talked about shooting and killing students the next day,” Sheriff’s Office Lt. Tim Willis said.
Willis said authorities found a journal in which the suspect wrote about his “desire” to murder fellow classmates. He noted the suspect’s social media accounts included photos of the gun used in the attack.
America’s gun violence ‘epidemic’:Oxford High in Michigan is 28th school shooting of 2021
The suspect had been flagged twice by school personnel for “concerning behavior” before the attack, Bouchard said. The first time happened the day before the shooting and the second hours before the attack.
Bouchard said the suspect’s parents were brought to the school around 10 a.m. for a meeting with the student and school personnel, about three hours before the shooting.
Bouchard said the shooting started shortly before 1 p.m. Surveillance footage in the school showed the suspect leaving a bathroom with the firearm and firing at random in the hallways.
He said the video showed the teen never entered any classrooms. The weapon was a 9mm Sig Sauer SP2022 pistol. Bouchard said the teen was arrested with a total of 18 live rounds left, including bullets still loaded in the gun.
Who was killed, injured in the Oxford shooting?
Tate Myre died in a patrol car as a deputy rushed him to a hospital, Bouchard said. Justin Shilling died Wednesday at a hospital.
Seven people were injured, including a teacher. Bouchard said most of the remaining gunshot victims were stable, but some remained in critical condition. Police said a 14-year-old girl was placed on a ventilator after surgery, and the 47-year-old teacher was discharged after being treated.
A post on the Twitter page for Oxford High School’s football team said Tate had been a varsity football player since his first year and was an honor student. “Tate was a great young man with a bright future and beloved by all. You will be missed, Tate,” the tweet read.
“He was a tremendous football player with the brightest of futures and was an even better young man off the field as he was on it,” another tweet read.
The school’s women’s basketball team tweeted that Hana St. Juliana was a dedicated member of the program. “We will never forget your kind heart, silly personality, and passion for the game. … This season we play for you Hana,” the post read.
McDonald said that Hana also played volleyball and that her father called her “one of the happiest and most joyful kids.”
Madisyn Baldwin’s grandmother described the 17-year-old as a talented artist and told WDIV-TV she had received multiple college acceptances. Madisyn was patient and “so kind,” her grandmother told the TV station.
McDonald said Madisyn was also a big sister.
Justin Shilling, 17, was the co-captain of the Oxford bowling team and a golfer, McDonald said.
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How the shooting at Oxford High School unfolded
At 12:51 p.m. Tuesday, police dispatchers received a 911 call for an active shooter at Oxford High School. More than 100 calls came in. Within about five minutes of the initial call, Oakland County sheriff’s deputies had arrested the suspect, McCabe said.
It did not appear the victims were specifically targeted, Bouchard said.
McCabe said the school did “everything right” and had everyone take shelter. Barricaded doors and first responders’ quick action “saved lives,” Bouchard said.
Abbey said she and her classmates lined up along a wall and grabbed something to throw, also part of their active-shooter training. Not long after, her teacher told them to jump out a window and run.
A video shared widely on social media from inside a classroom showed students hiding as they heard a knock on the door. A voice from outside the classroom said, “Sheriff’s office. It’s safe to come out.” Inside, a person replied, “We’re not willing to take that risk right now.”
“It’s OK,” the voice outside insisted. “Open the door. It’s all right, bro.” When students heard the person outside use the word “bro,” pandemonium erupted. Someone called it a “red flag” because a sheriff’s deputy would be unlikely to use the word “bro.” The students escaped through a window, and a sheriff’s deputy greeted them as they entered another door across a courtyard.
Bouchard said after investigating and examining surveillance footage that the TikTok video had not captured the suspect knocking on the door and attempting to trick students into coming out of the classroom.
“We have now been able to determine that was not the suspect. More than likely, it was one of our plainclothes detectives, and he may have been talking ‘bro’ in a conversational manner to try to bring them down from the crisis,” Bouchard said at a news conference. “The suspect, we have now confirmed by analyzing all of the video from the time it began to the time we took him into custody, never knocked on a door.”
Ashley Bales, a senior, didn’t realize the intercom call was real until she got a text from her sister. She and her classmates ran outside and down a slippery hill toward a Meijer grocery store during the shooting. She was struck in the face in the crush of people but was OK.
“It was hard for me because my sister was still in school,” she said.
Brandi Lawrey said she was on the phone with her daughter, Makenzie, 17, as she ran from the building while police officers directed her out. Lawrey said Makenzie’s class barricaded their door with tables and chairs, then squeezed into a far corner before they left the building.
“All the words in her text and the fear in her voice kept filtering through my mind,” Lawrey said Wednesday morning. “Makenzie is devastated and heartbroken. She’s scared.”
Schools superintendent Tim Throne said Oxford High doesn’t have metal detectors. Authorities know how the student brought in the weapon, McCabe said, but he did not elaborate.
McCabe said the district and superintendent work hard to keep the school’s 1,800 students safe, highlighting the fact that a deputy is assigned to the school and was involved in the suspect’s arrest.
How many school shootings have taken place this year?
Of those, 20 have occurred since August, when many students returned to in-person learning for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. There were 10 recorded shootings in 2020.
Tuesday’s incident is the 651st in 2021 in which at least four people were shot, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Contributing: Khalil AlHajal, Elisha Anderson, Liz Shepard, David Jesse, Kristen Jordan Shamus and Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press; Michael Braun, Fort Myers News-Press; The Associated Press