A Michigan teenager allegedly used a gun bought by his father just days earlier to kill at least three people at his high school Tuesday, sending students scrambling to barricade doors and arming themselves with school supplies in case they had to fight him off.
Authorities were dispatched to Oxford High School, about 40 miles from Detroit, shortly before 1 p.m. on Tuesday. They arrived to discover that 10 students and a teacher had been shot, and arrested the shooter without incident.
A 15-year-old not yet named has been identified as the alleged shooter, and though details about the shooting itself have become available, not much is known so far about why this happened.
The school had been the subject of vague security rumors, which led the administration to formally reach out to parents earlier this month to attempt to assuage fears.
Speaking with reporters Tuesday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called the shooting “every parent’s worst nightmare.”
Police began receiving what eventually totaled more than 100 911 calls at 12:51 p.m. on Tuesday. When they arrived, a 15-year-old boy identified as the alleged shooter “did not give us any resistance” as he was being arrested, Oakland County undersheriff Michael McCabe told reporters Tuesday.
The shooter allegedly fired at least 15 and as many as 20 shots with a 9-millimeter Sig Sauer handgun before being arrested, police said. The gun had been bought by the shooter’s father just four days earlier, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said.
A video posted to Snapchat by an Oxford student shows students barricaded as a person knocks on the door and tells them it’s the sheriff’s office and that it’s “safe to come out.” When someone in the room responds, “We’re not willing to take that risk right now,” the person responds, “OK, come to the door, bro.”
The students take that as a “red flag” and then escape out of a window in the classroom before getting into another building, where police tell them they’re safe.
The father of the student who took the video later shared it with FOX 2 Detroit. It’s unclear whether the person behind the door was the shooter.
“We just got in the corner, and sat down exactly how we were supposed to—like we followed the protocols that we practiced, and everyone followed,” Alysse Avey, an Oxford student who was in biology class, told the Times. “No one talked, we didn’t scream or anything; we were just silent.”
Aiden Page, a senior at the school, told CNN that his teacher locked the door and students began barricading the door with desks and chairs. A desk used to stop the shooter from coming in was hit with a bullet.
“We grabbed calculators, we grabbed scissors just in case the shooter got in and we had to attack them,” Page told CNN.
Bouchard said in an early-Wednesday Facebook post that it was “evident from the scene that the lockdown protocols, training, and equipment Oxford schools had in place saved lives as well.”
The alleged shooter
The alleged shooter was a 15-year-old sophomore who’d been in class earlier that day, police said. His name has not been released because he’s a minor, though police have identified him as a resident of nearby Oxford Village, Michigan.
Bouchard said police believe the suspect came out of the bathroom with the gun. When police apprehended him, the gun had seven bullets left in the chamber. "Deputies took [the gun] from him, he was walking down the hall,” Bouchard told reporters. “That interrupted what could have led to several more victims. The way I see it is, there were seven more victims in that gun.”
The alleged shooter is currently being held in a juvenile jail in Pontiac, Michigan, and is not cooperating with investigators, Bouchard said Tuesday. His family has hired an attorney, police said.
“The person that’s got the most insight of the motive is not talking,” Bouchard told reporters.
Oxford High School was on high alert in the weeks leading up to the shooting. On Nov. 4, principal Steve Wolf sent a message to parents and guardians concerning an incident where someone had used red acrylic paint to graffiti the school building and threw part of an animal carcass onto school property.
While Wolf said the graffiti didn’t include any threats, he did say that “this person did throw the head of a deer into a locked/inaccessible courtyard while on the roof. The deer was from a nearby location off-campus, likely struck from a vehicle prior to today. There was no blood from the animal found on campus or on the roof, as earlier reported on social media.”
Then, on Nov. 12, Oxford High School’s administration posted a message to parents and guardians vaguely referencing “concerns and rumors” and the incident with the graffiti and deer head.
Earlier this month, Oxford High School’s administration posted a message to parents and guardians vaguely referencing “concerns and rumors.”
“We are aware of the numerous rumors that have been circulating throughout our building this week. We understand that has created some concern for students and parents. Please know that we have reviewed every concern shared with us and investigated all information provided,” the school said in a Nov. 12 message. “Some rumors have evolved from an incident last week, while others do not appear to have any connection. Student interpretations of social media posts and false information have exacerbated the overall concern.”
“We want our parents and students to know there has been no threat to our building nor our students,” the school added.
“Beautiful, smart, sweet”
The three students who were pronounced dead Tuesday were 16-year-old Tate Myer, 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin, and 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana, according to the Detroit News. A fourth student, 17-year-old Justin Shilling, passed away on Wednesday morning at McLaren Oakland Hospital in nearby Pontiac, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post.
Police said Tuesday that a sheriff’s deputy attempted to rush Tate to the hospital in a patrol car, but that Tate died en route.
Baldwin was an artist who was set to start college next year, according to the Detroit News. Her grandmother, Jennifer Graves Mosqueda, started a GoFundMe to help the family deal with bills; as of Wednesday morning, it had brought in nearly $20,000 of a $30,000 goal.
“This beautiful, smart, sweet, loving girl was tragically taken from us all today, leaving a huge hole in all of our hearts and [lives],” Mosqueda wrote. “This horrific day could never have been imagined or planned for.”
Additionally, one of those injured, a 14-year-old girl, is on a ventilator. “Tragically, it looks very tough for this young girl,” Bouchard told reporters Tuesday.
Among the others injured were several students in critical condition and a 47-year-old teacher who was shot in the shoulder and has since been released from the hospital.
“I don’t want to hear ‘thoughts and prayers’”
President Joe Biden addressed the shooting while at an event at a community college in Minnesota, where he was scheduled to talk about the recently signed infrastructure bill.
“As we learn the full details, my heart goes out to the families enduring the unimaginable grief of losing a loved one,” Biden said. “That whole community has to be in a state of shock right now.”
Later, when asked by a reporter if he planned to go to Michigan, Biden responded: “I don’t know that I’m able to do that.”
Gov. Whitmer ordered the state’s flags lowered to half-staff Wednesday.
“As Michiganders, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect each other from gun violence. No one should be afraid to go to school, work, a house of worship, or even their own home,” she said in a statement.
“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.”
Mallory McMorrow, a Democrat who represents part of Oakland County in the state Senate, called for new gun control measures in response to the shooting.
“I'm at a loss of words,” she tweeted. “And I don't want to hear ‘thoughts and prayers’ I want everyone in any position of authority to agree that easy access to firearms that allow children to kill other children is not an acceptable world to live in and that we will do everything to stop it.”
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