A 15-year-old boy was charged Wednesday with murder, terrorism and other offences for a shooting that killed four fellow students and injured others at a Michigan high school, authorities said Wednesday, revealing that his parents were summoned just a few hours before the bloodshed.
The charges were announced a few hours after authorities reported the death of the fourth teen from Oxford High School, roughly 50 kilometres north of Detroit.
No motive was offered by Oakland County authorities for Tuesday’s violence. But prosecutor Karen McDonald said the shooting was premeditated, based in part on a “mountain of digital evidence” collected by police.
“This was not just an impulsive act,” McDonald said.
Oakland County Sheriff’s Lt. Tim Willis said during a court hearing for Ethan Crumbley that the boy recorded a video the night before the violence in which he discussed killing students.
Crumbley was charged as an adult with murder, attempted murder, terrorism causing death and gun crimes. During his arraignment, he replied, “Yes, I do,” when asked if he understood the charges.
Defence attorney Scott Kozak entered a plea of not guilty.
“He deliberately brought the handgun that day with the intent to murder as many students as he could,” assistant prosecutor Marc Keast said in successfully arguing for no bail and a transfer to jail from a juvenile facility.
‘We have to do better’
The four students killed were identified as: Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana,14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Justin Shilling, 17, who died Wednesday.
Another six unidentified students and a teacher were injured in the shooting. As of Wednesday afternoon, four had been treated and released, two were in stable condition and one, a 17-year-old girl, was in critical condition, according to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department.
Earlier, Sheriff Mike Bouchard told reporters that Crumbley’s parents were called to the school Tuesday “for behaviour in the classroom that was concerning.” The teen remained in school, and the shooting occurred a few hours later.
Bouchard didn’t offer details about what had troubled school officials. He said investigators believe the gun was already in the school.
“There is nothing that he could have faced that would warrant senseless, absolutely brutal violence on other kids,” the sheriff said.
The shooting should be a wake-up call for new gun laws in a country that has become “desensitized to school shootings,” McDonald told reporters.
“We have to do better,” McDonald said without offering specific changes. “How many times does this have to happen? How many times?”
She said the terrorism charge also fits.
“What about all the children who ran, screaming, hiding under desks? … Those are victims, too, and so are their families and so is the community,” McDonald said.
It was the deadliest school shooting since the Santa Fe High School shooting in Texas in 2018, according to a database of mass killing maintained by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University. The U.S. has had 31 mass killings this year, 28 of which involved firearms.
Father of teen charged bought gun
Keast, the assistant prosecutor, said in court that Crumbley entered a bathroom with a backpack and came out holding a semi-automatic handgun, firing at students while moving down the hallway.
Deputies rushed to the school around lunch time and arrested Crumbley in a hallway within minutes of the shooting. His father had bought the 9-mm Sig Sauer gun last week, according to the sheriff.
McDonald said they were also consider charging the parents.
“Owning a gun means securing it properly and locking it and keeping the ammunition separate,” she said.
The gun the teen was carrying had seven more rounds of ammo in it when he surrendered, Bouchard said.
Under-sheriff Mike McCabe said the student’s parents advised their son not to talk to investigators. Police must seek permission from a juvenile’s parents or guardian to speak with them, he said.
After the attack, authorities learned of social media posts about threats of a shooting at the school, which has a student population of roughly 1,700. The sheriff stressed how crucial it is for such tips to be sent to authorities while also cautioning against spreading social media rumours before a full investigation.
The district said in a statement that all schools would be closed for the rest of the week.
Vigil for victims
Video posted on social media showed students at the school on Tuesday rushing to get out of first-floor classroom windows rather than open a door to someone who claimed to be a police officer. Bouchard said he likely was a detective.
Isabel Flores, a 15-year-old ninth grader, told Detroit television station WJBK that she and other students heard gunshots and saw a student bleeding from the face. They then ran from the area through the rear of the school, she said.
A concerned parent, Robin Redding, said her son, Treshan Bryant, stayed home Tuesday after hearing threats of a possible shooting. “This couldn’t be just random,” she said.
Bryant, who is in Grade 12, said he had heard vague threats “for a long time now” about plans for a shooting.
At a vigil Tuesday night at LakePoint Community Church in Oxford, Leeann Dersa choked back tears as she hugged friends and neighbours. Dersa has lived nearly all of her 73 years in the community. Her grandchildren attended the high school.
“Scared us all something terrible. It’s awful,” she said of the shooting.
Pastor Jesse Holt said news of the shooting flooded in to him and his wife, including texts from some of the 20 to 25 students who are among the 400-member congregation.
“Some were very scared, hiding under their desks and texting us, ‘We’re safe. We’re OK. We heard gunshots, but we’re OK.’ They were trying to calm us. At least that’s how it felt,” he said.