4th student dies, police seek motive

December 1, 2021
Community members pray during a vigil at the Lake Point Community Church following the shooting at Oxford High School in Oxford on November 30, 2021.
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OXFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — A fourth teenager died Wednesday after a shooting at a Michigan high school where a 15-year-old student opened fire “with the intent to kill,” police said.

Four teenagers were killed and seven people injured after the shooting unfolded Tuesday afternoon at Oxford High School in Oakland County, roughly 45 minutes northwest of Detroit. A suspect was taken into custody at the scene.

“He came out with the intent to kill people. He was shooting people at close range often times toward the head or chest,” Sheriff Michael Bouchard said on CNN on Wednesday morning. “It’s chilling. It’s just absolutely cold-hearted murderous.”

Bouchard said the suspect fired through barricaded classroom doors and tried to breach doors.

Students described a chaotic scene in which a voice came over the intercom to announce an active shooter and they didn’t know whether it was a drill. Then teachers rushed to lock and barricade doors and cover windows. Students were in tears and texted loved ones.

Abbey Hodder, a 15-year-old 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.”

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said in a statement her office was reviewing the case and intended to “issue appropriate charges quickly.”

Bouchard said the suspect’s father bought the gun Friday and that the suspect appeared to post images of the gun online days before the shooting.

Undersheriff Michael McCabe acknowledged there were rumors about warning signs and said that they were being investigated. At least one parent told the Associated Press that her son was not in school over fears something could happen.

“He was not in school today,” Robin Redding, who has a 12th-grade son, told the Associated Press. “He just said that ‘Ma, I don’t feel comfortable. None of the kids that we go to school with are going today.'”

Pastors and religious leaders organized prayer vigils Tuesday night. “Just about all of Oxford hurts,” Pastor Jesse Holt told a crowd of more than 200 at one community church.

More on Tuesday’s shooting:At least 3 students dead, 8 injured in Michigan high school shooting

What happened at Oxford High?

At 12:51 p.m., police dispatchers received a 911 call for an active shooter at Oxford High School. More than 100 calls ultimately came in. 

Within about five minutes of the initial call, Oakland County sheriff’s deputies had taken a suspect into custody, McCabe said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon. 

Bouchard said Wednesday investigators recovered 30 shell casings and believe the suspect fired 30 shots. Surveillance video from the school showed the suspect coming out of a bathroom with a pistol, Bouchard said.

McCabe said the school did “everything right” and had everyone take shelter. Both barricaded doors and first responders’ quick action “saved lives,” Bouchard said.

Hodder said she and her classmates lined up along a wall and grabbed something to throw, also part of their active shooting training. But not long after, her teacher told them to jump out a window and run.

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 Meijer during the shooting. She was hit 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.

SWAT, more than 60 ambulances, an aviation unit and FBI agents were at the scene Tuesday afternoon.

Eventually, students with transportation were allowed to leave. A nearby Meijer store closed down and served as a reunification site for parents and students. 

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 and then squeezed into a far corner before they left.

“All the words in her text and the fear in her voice kept filtering through my mind,” Brandi Lawrey said Wednesday morning. “Makenzie is devastated and heartbroken, she’s scared.”

Who was killed, injured in the Oxford shooting?

Four people were killed, the sheriff’s office said: Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Justin Shilling, 15.

Myre died in a patrol car as a deputy rushed to a hospital, Bouchard said. Shilling died Wednesday at a local hospital, police said.

Seven people were injured, including a teacher. Bouchard said most of the remaining gunshot victims were stable, but some remained in critical condition. Police previously said a 14-year-old girl was placed on a ventilator after surgery and the 47-year-old teacher was discharged after being treated.

America’s gun violence ‘epidemic’:Oxford High in Michigan is 28th school shooting of 2021

A post on the Twitter page for Oakland High School’s football team said Myre had been a varsity football player since his first year and was also 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 tweeted that 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.

What do we know about the Oxford High School shooting suspect?

Police took a 15-year-old sophomore from the Village of Oxford into custody at the scene. The teen was in class during the day, McCabe said. Bouchard declined to name the suspect because he is a juvenile.

The teen had a handgun when a deputy assigned to the school and another deputy spotted him coming down a hall with a 9mm handgun.He still had seven rounds of live ammunition in the magazine and one in the chamber, Bouchard said Wednesday.

“He didn’t give us any resistance when he was taken into custody,” McCabe said. “The whole thing lasted five minutes.” 

The suspect invoked his right not to speak to investigators and requested a lawyer. He was being held at the county’s juvenile detention facility and was under suicide watch, County Executive David Coulter said Tuesday night. 

More from Oxford community:Town organizes vigils, prays for peace in wake of Michigan high school shooting

Officials searched the suspect’s house and his parents have hired an attorney. Bouchard said police had recovered what are believed to be some of his writings from the home and are beginning to go through them.

Police aren’t aware of any disciplinary issues or prior run-ins with law enforcement that the suspect had. McCabe repeatedly stressed his office was not aware of any credible threats of violence before the shooting.

Where did the gun come from and how did it get into Oxford High?

The teen’s father bought the gun four days before the shooting on Friday, Bouchard said. The weapon was a 9mm Sig Sauer SP 2022 pistol and the suspect had at least two 15-round magazines. 

The suspect’s father is said to have bought a third magazine that hasn’t been located, but Bouchard said he suspects it would be found at the school.

Schools superintendent Tim Throne said Oxford High doesn’t have metal detectors. Authorities knew how the student brought in the weapon, McCabe added, but he but 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.

“Not all schools have metal detectors; they have one entrance. … Should every school and every building have metal detectors? You know, it’s very expensive, but I can’t answer that question, I don’t know,” he said.

Gov. Whitmer: ‘Unimaginable tragedy’

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during a Tuesday evening news conference at the school called it “an unimaginable tragedy” and that it’s every parent’s worst nightmare. 

She asked Michiganders to support the community and called the shooting a uniquely American problem that needs to be addressed. 

“I’m devastated for the students, teachers, staff and families of Oxford High School,” she said via Twitter. “The death of multiple students and shooting of others, including a teacher, is horrific. My heart is with the parents who had their children taken from them and with the entire Oxford community.”

President Joe Biden also addressed the shooting while speaking during a visit to Minnesota on Tuesday. 

“My heart goes out to the families that are enduring the unimaginable grief of losing a loved one,” he said.

“You’ve got to know that whole community has to be in a state of shock right now.” 

How many school shootings have taken place this year?

There have been 28 school shootings this year, according to Education Week, which tracks shootings at schools in which there are any firearm-related injuries or deaths.

Of those, 20 have happened 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.

In addition, the incident is the 651st incident 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 and Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press; Michael Braun, Fort Myers News-Press; Ryan Miller, USA TODAY



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