DETROIT — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has offered her department’s services to do an independent investigation of how Oxford High School officials handled the days leading up to the mass shooting at the schoolthat left four dead and seven wounded.
In two tweets Sunday morning, Nessel responded to Oxford Superintendent Tim Throne’s announcement Saturday that the district will hire an outside investigator to look at its actions, who said he called for the third-party probe because parents have raised questions about “the school’s version of events” regarding the Tuesday shooting.
“We have reached out to the attorney for the Oxford Community School District and have offered the services of the Michigan Department of Attorney General to conduct a full and comprehensive review of the 11/30/21 shooting and the events leading up to it,” Nessel said, responding to a tweet about a Detroit Free Press story.
Nessel added: “Our attorneys and special agents are uniquely qualified to perform an investigation of this magnitude and are prepared to perform an extensive investigation and inquiry to answer the many questions the community has regarding this tragedy.”
Nessel told the Free Press, part of the USA TODAY Network, that she has been in contact all week long with Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald, who, Nessel said, “has made it pretty clear that a comprehensive investigation of the school (needs) to be done.”
McDonald gave a litany of red flags Friday about 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley charged in the shooting, including a cellphone search for gun ammunition observed by a teacher the day before the incident and a note found on the suspect’s desk hours before the shooting that showed a drawing of a bullet with the words “blood everywhere” near a person who appeared to have been gunned down.
Nessel’s office is best situated to do that review, she said, because it houses both civil and criminal attorneys and investigators. That means the AG can look at not only whether any criminal laws were broken, but whether there were civil infractions. Her office also has experience looking at policies and procedures to make sure all were followed and those in place are the best plans.
The investigation should be done by a truly independent agency, not a private law firm hired by the district, Nessel said, because a private law firm often is more about “protecting their client.” In this case, that would be the school district.
“We want to answer all the questions the parents have about this,” Nessel said. That includes trying to figure out the facts of the situation.
“There’s a lot of information out there,” Nessel said. “I don’t know at this point what is true or not true.”
The damage was just beginning.:In just 5 minutes, a gunman turned a normal day at Oxford High into a nightmare
Nessel’s office sent an email to the school district’s attorney on Saturday offering services. She said that as of midafternoon Sunday, she hadn’t heard back, but wasn’t upset about it.
“They should sit down and talk about it,” she said.
On Saturday, Throne sent a letter to parents about the actions of the school district in the runup to Tuesday’s shooting.
He wrote that Oxford High School counselors did not believe the 15-year-old charged with killing four classmates and wounding seven others was at risk of harming others. He also wrote that Crumbley, who will be charged as an adult with murder, terrorism and other crimes, appeared calm in an office meeting with his parents on Tuesday, the morning of the shootings, and claimed a graphic drawing depicting blood and a bullet was a part of a video game idea he was designing.
The letter also contained a pledge to conduct an independent investigation. It comes after numerous parents and community members have questioned whether school officials could have intervened more aggressively in Crumbley’s behavior.
“Our community and our families deserve a full, transparent accounting of what occurred,” Throne wrote. “We also plan to make regular updates to our families and community.”
Follow David Jesse on Twitter @reporterdavidj.