A 15-year-old Oxford High School sophomore, armed with a semi-automatic pistol, is charged with a shooting at his school on Tuesday afternoon, killing three students and injuring seven others and a teacher.
Those killed were: Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14, and Madisyn Baldwin, 17.
The incident unfolded in about five minutes, and police said the uninjured shooter was arrested after deputies stopped him from coming down a hall with a 9mm pistol with seven shots of sharp ammunition.
Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard said late Tuesday that the suspect’s father bought the gun just four days ago. The sheriff said he would not identify the youth at this time.
The teenager was under suicide surveillance, County Director David Coulter said Tuesday night, and prosecutor Karen McDonald said she planned to issue “appropriate charges quickly” and that society has her commitment and promise that she “will seek justice.”
Michael McCabe, the sheriff of Oakland County, who lives about 1 mile from the school, told an earlier news conference that the suspect appeared to be working alone and that investigators were interviewing students and searching social media for clues to a motive.
The boy, who was fatally wounded, died in a patrol car as a deputy rushed to a hospital, Bouchard said. He noted that an employee at the emergency center also suffered a beloved death during the attack.
Of those injured, the 47-year-old teacher with a grazing gunshot wound had been discharged, while children aged 14 to 17 were in conditions ranging from stable to critical, with injuries to limbs, breasts, neck and heads. A 14-year-old girl was on a respirator on Tuesday night.
Other students were injured during the evacuation but had non-life-threatening injuries, the sheriff said.
It was unclear if the suspect had attacked anyone. Some said he was bullied.
Meanwhile, pastors and religious leaders organized two prayer services, one at Kensington Church in Lake Orion and the other at the Lake Point Community in Oxford, for the grieving survivors. A fair was organized in St. Joseph, also in Lake Orion.
As the country’s recent mass shooting attracts the attention of national media, it raises questions about what to do with weapons and renews political debates on gun control, violence and school security.
At a press conference at At 5 p.m., Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called mass shootings a “unique American” problem to be solved. Later, when she answered a journalist’s question about how she was feeling, her voice faltered.
Close to tears, she added, “I think this is all parents’ worst nightmare.”
Police said they were not aware of any warning signs, but some parents and students said they had heard rumors before Tuesday that something bad could happen at the school.
Earlier this month, schools in Oxford released a note to parents stating that they were aware that “many rumors” had “circulated through our building this week” and the school was reviewing the concerns.
Bouchard urged people to contact law enforcement with such tips. He called the shooting “unspeakable and unforgivable”.
“We are here for the worst kind of tragedy we have seen across the country, and we hoped and prayed that it would never come to Oakland County, but it has,” he said.
He praised the training that the community had done to prepare for such a day, praised the deputies who took the suspect into custody, and discussed the massive response from law enforcement partners.
For most of Tuesday afternoon, law enforcement officers surrounded the school, helicopters swirled across the snow-covered parking lots, and worried parents took to social media to find out what was going on.
“As Michiganders, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect each other from gun violence,” Whitmer said in a statement ordering the flags lowered. “No one should be afraid to go to school, work, a house of worship or even their own home.”
President Joe Biden – who was briefed by Jake Sullivan, his national security adviser while traveling in Minnesota – said, “My heart goes out to the families who are enduring the unimaginable grief of losing a loved one.”
Meanwhile, the students – those at school or just in the community on Tuesdays – were in a riot.
Middle school students reported concern for their older siblings.
Others said they lost friends. One said it will take time to feel safe in school again.
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A chaotic scene
Oxford High School students interviewed by reporters described a chaotic and confused scene in which a voice came over the intercom to announce an active shooter.
First, they said, they did not know if it was a drill.
But when they realized it was not, they were struck with fear and panic.
Surveillance footage, Bouchard would later say, showed the suspect coming out of a bathroom with the gun.
Students said teachers locked and barricaded doors, covered windows – and some students hid. Those with cell phones wrote quietly to warn their parents and friends about what was going on. The students were in tears.
Some students said they could hear loud bangs.
Early in the afternoon, the Sheriff’s Office said it had taken the suspect – and the gun – into custody. Officials said they were shocked and crushed and asked for prayers.
The suspect, police said, asked for a lawyer.
Some parents later said, even before the shooting, rumors had circulated that a school shooting would take place, and some students even said they had decided not to participate.
Robin Redding, a parent of a 12th grader, told the Associated Press that there had been rumors of trouble at the school.
“He was not in school today,” she said. “He just said, ‘Mom, I’m not feeling well. None of the kids we go to school with go today.’ “
Jody Job, president of the Oakland County Democratic Party and candidate for State House in 2020, said her son did not go to school Tuesday because “he felt something would go down.”
“I think there was just a level of discomfort in some of the students,” she said. “I do not know what they are communicating to each other. It is a completely different world I am not a part of.”
Gun violence in schools, she said, “feels like it’s something that will hit all schools eventually if we do not really start cracking down on guns and especially children’s access to guns.”
The victims rushed to the hospitals
A public school in northern Oakland County about 45 minutes from downtown Detroit, Oxford High has about 1,800 students and draws from Oxford, Oxford Township and parts of Orion, Dryden, Metamora and Addison townships.
The first 911 call about the shooting, authorities said, came around 6 p.m. 12:51 and was followed by many more. More than 100 police officers, including the FBI Special Agent in charge, and paramedics responded.
Ambulances drove the victims to three local hospitals.
Shortly before 1:45 p.m., a large number of students could be seen walking west along Ray Road to a nearby Meijer store. Police cars, fire trucks and ambulances surrounded the school while officers in tactical gear went in and out.
Abbey Hodder, a 15-year-old second student, went into chemistry class when she thought she heard glass break.
“My teacher ran out a bit and was about to run around,” she said. “The next thing I knew, I saw him push tables. It’s part of the school protocol to barricade, so we all knew, barricades, barricades down. And we all started pushing tables.”
They then lined up along a wall and grabbed something to throw, also part of the active shooting practice they have had, Hodder said. But not long after, she added, her teacher told them to jump out of a window and run.
Authorities said there did not appear to be any other threats, but the doubles and triples checked the school where some students were allegedly hiding, according to parents who were in contact with them.
Students with transportation were allowed to leave.
Others were told to gather at Meijeren, which is within walking distance of the school.
Ashley Bales, a senior at Oxford, had not realized that the intercom was genuine until she received a text message from her sister. She and her classmates ran through a door to the outside and down a slippery hill toward Meijer at one point during the shooting. She was hit in the face in a pinch by people, but was okay.
“It was hard for me because my sister was still going to school,” she said.
State Representative Gary Howell, R-North Branch, tweeted that his son is a high school teacher. Howell said it was “the scare of his life” when he heard the news of the shooting.
“Thank God we have received a message from John that he and his students are safe,” he added in his tweet. “Please join us and pray for the other students and staff at Oxford.”
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Possible active shooter at Oakland County high school
An outflow of grief
Throughout the Detroit subway station, residents and government officials expressed condolences.
“We are deeply saddened by today’s tragic events in Oxford,” the Detroit Tigers tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and the entire community affected by this tragedy.”
Attorney General Dana Nessel, the state’s top law enforcement officer, said her department contacted local law enforcement to offer assistance while the investigation continues.
“We must act to properly address gun violence in our schools and the ongoing threat of yet another unscrupulous tragedy if we continue to give only thoughts and prayers,” she said. “Our children deserve better.”
The American rep. Lisa McClain said she “can not imagine the pain their families are going through.”
“This is an incredibly sad day for Oxford and our entire state,” she added. “I want to thank our first aiders for their bravery during this tragedy and ask you all to keep Oxford in your prayers.”
The American rep. Elissa Slotkin said at the news conference late in the evening that the incident highlights the deep need for mental health services in schools across the country. She also praised the first respondents.
“It’s obviously a deep dark day in Michigan’s history. The trend we’ve seen all over the country has come to us; we had all hoped it would not,” she said, adding: “People have asked what can “They reach everyone you know in the Oxford area, in the Lake Orion area. Just show the basic human compassion by reaching out. People need to hear from others right now.”
Staff writers Nushrat Rahman, Dave Boucher, Todd Spangler, Elisha Anderson, Kristen Jordan Shamus, Adrienne Roberts and the Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Frank Witsil: 313-222-5022 or email@example.com.
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