OXFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Authorities say a 15-year-old student opened fire at his Michigan high school Tuesday, fatally shooting three students and injuring eight others in an attack that prompted teachers to barricade classrooms and students to send panicked messages to family and friends.
The shooting at Oxford High School in Oxford Township, a tight-knit community in a suburb about 35 miles north of Detroit, unfolded around 1 p.m. when a boy, a sophomore at the school, started shooting a semiautomatic handgun, according to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.
“This wound will never go away,” said Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard in a press conference Tuesday night.
The three deceased students are 16-year-old Tate Myre, 14-year-old Hanna St. Julian, and 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin. Myre died in a patrol car on the way to the hospital, Bouchard said.
“The deputy saw it was such a grievous wound that there was no time to wait,” he said.
Of the eight others who were shot, three remain in critical condition: a 15-year-old boy, a 17-year-old girl, and a 14-year-old girl who is on a ventilator.
“It’s looking very tough for this young girl,” Bouchard said. A 14-year-old boy is in serious condition, the sheriff’s office added.
Seven of the injured were students. The eighth was a 47-year-old teacher at the school, who has been discharged from the hospital.
The 9mm pistol the suspect used during the shooting was bought by his father on Black Friday, Nov. 26, according to Bouchard. It was loaded with seven rounds of ammunition when police arrested the suspect.
Oakland County Sheriff’s Office said it received over 100 calls about an active shooter starting around 12:51 p.m. local time. Within three minutes, the suspect was in custody, McCabe said.
America’s gun violence ‘epidemic’: Oxford High in Michigan is 28th school shooting of 2021
A deputy assigned to the school as a liaison assisted. The suspect fired about 15 to 20 shots during the incident, said McCabe.
“He didn’t give us any resistance when he was taken into custody,” McCabe said. “The whole thing lasted five minutes.”
Oxford High School students described a chaotic scene in which a voice over the intercom said there was an active shooter.
At first, they didn’t know whether it was a drill, they said.
When they realized it wasn’t, they were struck by fear and panic. Teachers locked and barricaded doors and covered windows. Students hid. Some with cellphones quietly texted to alert their parents and friends.
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. “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.”
They then lined up along a wall and grabbed something to throw, also part of the active shooter training they’ve done, Hodder said. But not long after, she added, her teacher told them to jump out a window and run.
Oxford High School, which has about 1,800 students, has no metal detectors, Bouchard said. He said there will be a “tremendous amount of video footage” from the school.
Authorities did not say whether the suspect targeted anyone in particular, nor did they release any information about a motive. McCabe said authorities were investigating whether there were any warnings before the shooting or if the student had any history of violence. He said students and others would be questioned.
Bouchard said police weren’t aware of any prior concerns or threats surrounding the school before the shooting.
The suspect, whose name was not released, invoked his right to remain silent and refused to speak in depth with authorities, McCabe said. He said the boy’s parents “didn’t want their son to talk to us, and they hired an attorney,” adding since the boy is a minor he couldn’t be questioned unless a parent approved it.
The sheriff’s office said police executed a search warrant at the suspect’s home and seized his phone. The suspect is on suicide watch, Bouchard said.
Isabel Flores told WJBK, a local Fox affiliate, she and other students heard gunshots and saw a student bleeding from the face. They ran from the area through the rear of the school, said Flores, 15, a ninth-grader.
Robin Redding, the parent of a 12th grader, said her son stayed home Tuesday. She said he had heard threats of a shooting at the school.
“This couldn’t be just random,” she said. “He just said that ‘Ma, I don’t feel comfortable. None of the kids that we go to school with are going today.’”
Redding expressed concern with school safety in general and did not provide specifics about what her son had heard. Authorities acknowledged the reports of possible violence at the school but said speculation and rumors were spreading on social media. “We will get to the bottom of this,” McCabe said, noting authorities were searching the suspect’s home that evening.
Hundreds from the community gathered at three different vigils Tuesday night, looking for comfort and meaning amidst the devastation.
They spanned the ages — students, parents, and community members who never thought anything like this could happen in their little enclave village in northern Oakland County.
“This is the thing you read about on the news, that happens in other places,” said Kim Kozel, 51, of Lake Orion, one of about 300 people who attended a prayer vigil at Kensington Church in Lake Orion.
“I don’t think I’ve processed it yet,” Kozel said, rattled. “It’s been a lot.”
“Just about all of Oxford hurts,” Pastor Jesse Holt told a crowd of more than 200, at LakePoint Community Church in Oxford Township. When seating ran out, dozens stood for the service. Several held onto each other for comfort. Then, sharing a common flame, they lit candles each had been given.
“I’m shocked,” Tim Throne, Oxford Community Schools superintendent, said after the shooting. “It’s devastating.”
Throne said that the school doesn’t have metal detectors and that he didn’t believe there had been discussions about them. McCabe said authorities knew how the student brought in the weapon but did not elaborate.
Whitmer was one of several elected officials who expressed condolences to the victims.
“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,” Whitmer said in a statement.
The Oxford High School shooting is the 28th — and deadliest — school shooting this year, according to Education Week, which tracks shootings at schools in which there are firearm-related injuries or deaths.
Of those 28 shootings, 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.
President Joe Biden was informed of the shooting after touring a technical college in Rosemount, Minnesota, to tout his infrastructure law.
“My heart goes out to the families during the unimaginable grief of losing a loved one,” Biden said. “You’ve got to know that that whole community has to be just in a state of shock right now.”
Everytown for Gun Safety, a national nonprofit organization that pushes for stricter gun control, said that over the past several months, it’s seen the largest number of gunfire incidents on school grounds and people shot since the organization started tracking such incidents in 2013.
The organization said September and October were tied for the most incidents recorded in a month – 32.
This year, there have been at least 651 mass shootings – defined as an incident in which four or more people are shot or killed, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks such incidents.
Contributing: Joey Garrison, USA TODAY; The Associated Press