DETROIT — School districts across the metro area were closed Thursday due to threats of violence just two days after a 15-year-old gunman at Oxford High School killed four students and wounded seven others.
At least 14 school districts planned to close for at least one day. The superintendent of Bloomfield Hills Schools, about 20 miles south of Oxford Township, wrote in a memo Wednesday night that the district and others nearby “have received numerous reports of threats of violence circulating on social media.”
The closures come a day after Ethan Crumbley appeared in court on first-degree murder and terrorism charges after police say he opened fire at Oxford High with the “intent to kill.” Crumbley, a sophomore student, pleaded not guilty and was denied bond Wednesday. He faces a possible life sentence if convicted.
Assistant Prosecutor Marc Keast said surveillance video of the shooting showed Crumbley “methodically and deliberately” walking down a hallway and firing at students.
“What’s depicted on that video, honestly, judge, I don’t have the words to describe how horrific that was,” Keast said in court.
Here’s what we know.
Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Tim Willis said during the arraignment that videos were recovered from the suspect’s cellphone, including “a video made by him the night before the incident wherein he talked about shooting and killing students the next day at Oxford High School.”
Willis said authorities also found the suspect’s journal “detailing his desire to shoot up a school to include murdering students.”
A review of Crumbley’s social media accounts and other documents show he planned the shooting and “brought the handgun that day with the intent to murder as many students as he could,” Keast said.
Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said at a news conference that “there is a mountain of digital evidence, videotape, social media” and that she was “confident” there was premeditation to commit the crimes “well before the incident.”
During the hearing, Crumbley quietly sat alone on one side of a table, masked and wearing dark green jail attire. Over about 90 minutes, he stated his name and answered the judge’s questions briefly.
The 15-year-old suspect had been flagged twice by school personnel for “concerning behavior” before the attack, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said. The first time happened the day before the shooting and the second hours before the attack.
Bouchard said the suspect’s parents were brought to the school around 10 a.m. for a meeting with the student and school personnel, about three hours before the shooting.
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Authorities identified the victims as Tate Myre, 16, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Hana St. Juliana, 14, and Justin Shilling, 17.
Myre was remembered as a standout football player being recruited to play in college and an honor student.
Baldwin was an aspiring artist and a “smart, sweet loving girl,” her grandmother wrote on a GoFundMe.
St. Juliana “was one of the happiest and most joyful kids,” her father told McDonald. She was on the basketball and volleyball teams and loved learning how to cook, said Jennifer Curtis, who lived in her neighborhood.
Shilling was on the golf and bowling teams. He was “simply a pleasure to be around,” Anita’s Kitchen, a Middle Eastern restaurant where he worked, posted on Facebook.
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The suspect was charged with one count of terrorism causing death, four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder, and 12 counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
McDonald said the terrorism charge is in relation to the horrors inflicted upon the rest of the school’s community who weren’t direct victims but still faced trauma.
“What about all the children who ran screaming, hiding under desks? What about all the children at home who can’t eat and can’t sleep and can’t imagine a world where they could ever step foot back in that school?” McDonald said.
McDonald acknowledged it was “not a usual, a typical charge.”
Michigan’s 2002 anti-terrorism law defines an act of terrorism as a violent felony “dangerous to human life” and “that is intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or influence or affect the conduct of government or a unit of government through intimidation or coercion.”
Matthew Schneider, a former federal prosecutor and the state’s former chief deputy attorney general, told the Associated Press the law was enacted months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks and typically has been applied to people making terroristic threats. But he said that didn’t mean it was inappropriate in this case and that the shooting “fits the language of the statute.”
“This is why we have this law. It’s for this type of case. This is not just a murder case,” he said. “It’s going to terrorize a generation of these kids who were in the school. The impact is on thousands of people.”
McDonald indicated more charges could be coming soon for others, specifically saying they were reviewing charges against the suspect’s parents.
“We know that owning a gun means securing it properly and locking it and keeping the ammunition separate and not allowing access to other individuals, particularly minors.
“We have to hold individuals accountable who don’t do that.”
Bouchard said the suspect’s father had purchased the 9mm Sig Sauer SP 2022 gun four days before the shooting.
Contributing: Phoebe Wall Howard, John Wisely, Clara Hendrickson, Jennifer Dixon, Georgea Kovanis and Jeff Seidel, Detroit Free Press