PONTIAC, Mich. — Prosecutors in suburban Detroit on Wednesday charged a 15-year-old boy with terrorism and first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of four of his classmates in a shooting spree on Tuesday at Oxford High School.
The boy, Ethan Crumbley, was being charged as an adult, said Karen D. McDonald, the Oakland County prosecutor. In addition to four counts of first-degree murder and one count of terrorism causing death, Mr. Crumbley faces seven counts of assault with intent to murder and 12 counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
Ms. McDonald said she is also considering charges against the suspect’s parents, who had a face-to-face meeting with school officials on Tuesday — roughly three hours before the shooting — about the suspect’s behavior in the classroom, according to the Oakland County sheriff, Michael Bouchard.
Sheriff Bouchard said the suspect had also met with school officials about concerning behavior on Monday, the day before the shooting. He declined to specify the nature of that behavior, but said law enforcement agencies had not been notified.
The sheriff said the district had no record that the suspect had been bullied at school, and he did not believe specific students were targeted in the attack.
During a video arraignment on Wednesday afternoon, authorities told a judge that investigators had recovered two separate videos from the suspect’s cellphone, which were made the night before the incident. He talked about shooting and killing students the next day at Oxford High. A journal in his backpack also detailed his desire to “shoot up the school,” authorities said.
The suspect, who had no previous juvenile record, according to a court official, appeared at his arraignment Wednesday afternoon via video from a juvenile detention facility. His parents, who identified themselves as Jennifer and James Crumbley, were also on the video conference observing the arraignment. His lawyer pleaded not guilty on his behalf.
The announcement of charges came just hours after a fourth student, Justin Shilling, 17, died at about 10 a.m. at McLaren Oakland Hospital in Pontiac, Mich., the authorities said.
The other students killed in the shooting had been previously identified as Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Tate Myre, 16, who died in a sheriff’s squad car while on the way to a hospital. Seven other people were injured.
The suspect emerged from a bathroom on Tuesday and started firing at students in the school’s hallway, the authorities said on Wednesday after reviewing video footage of the attack. Sheriff Bouchard said investigators were poring through many hours of video from security cameras to track the suspect’s actions, but his targets “appeared random.”
Prosecutors said it was clear that the suspect planned the shooting. “He methodically and deliberately walked down the hallway, aiming the firearm at students and firing,” said Marc Keast, an assistant prosecuting attorney, at the court arraignment. He added, “He deliberately brought the handgun that day with the intent to murder as many students as he could.”
Sheriff Bouchard said investigators had determined no possible motive for the shooting, which he described as “absolutely brutally cold hearted.” The suspect was being held at a juvenile jail early Wednesday, under suicide watch. Because of the charges against him, a judge later ordered that he moved to the adult jail and held in isolation, with no contact with adult inmates. No bond was set.
The gunman fired about 30 shots with a semiautomatic handgun before being apprehended with 18 live rounds still in his possession, the authorities said.
When the boy’s parents went to a sheriff’s substation after the shooting, they declined to let investigators question their child, Undersheriff McCabe said.
The sheriff told reporters on Tuesday that a 9-millimeter Sig Sauer handgun used in the shooting had been bought four days earlier by the suspect’s father.
Sheriff Bouchard said investigators had been told that the gunman pretended to be an officer in order to access barricaded classrooms, but later said that reviewing video evidence confirmed that he had not knocked on doors. “We know from physical evidence he shot through doors up and down more than one hallway,” the sheriff said on Wednesday.
The injured students ranged in age from 14 to 17, officials said, including at least two who remained in critical condition. The only adult who was shot, a 47-year-old female teacher, was discharged from a hospital on Tuesday.
PONTIAC, Mich. — Prosecutors said the 15-year-old boy accused of killing four classmates at Oxford High School in suburban Detroit on Tuesday had planned the attack “well before the incident.”
The boy was charged as an adult on Wednesday with one count of terrorism causing death and four counts of first-degree murder, which could lead to a life sentence if convicted. He was expected to appear in court later in the day.
“I am absolutely sure after reviewing the evidence that it isn’t even a close call: It was absolutely premeditated,” said Karen D. McDonald, the Oakland County prosecutor.
Ms. McDonald said prosecutors were reviewing “a mountain of digital evidence” and were also considering charges against the boy’s parents. The authorities said previously that the suspect’s father bought the gun four days before the shooting and that the boy had apparently posted a photo of the weapon with a target on social media.
“There are facts leading up to this shooting that suggest this was not just an impulsive act,” said Ms. McDonald, who declined to provide further details.
Ms. McDonald said she decided to charge the suspect as an adult because of the severity of the crime and her belief that it was a planned attack. She declined to say whether she believed the gunman had specifically targeted the four students he killed and the seven people he injured, including a teacher.
“Charging this person as an adult is necessary to achieve justice and protect the public,” Ms. McDonald said. “Any other option would put all of us at risk of this person because they could be released and still a threat.”
Ms. McDonald, a Democrat, said she hoped that the shooting would lead to changes in Michigan’s gun laws.
“If the incident yesterday with four children being murdered and multiple kids being injured is not enough to revisit our gun laws,” she said, “I don’t know what is.”
What began as an ordinary Tuesday at Oxford High School in Oakland County, Mich., was punctuated by the sound of gunfire as students settled in for fifth-period classes.
A gunman had opened fire in a hallway. A 15-year-old student has since been charged with murder and terrorism in the attack, which killed four teenagers and wounded seven other people, including a 47-year-old teacher.
At least two of the injured students, who officials said ranged in age from 14 to 17, remained in critical condition on Wednesday. The teacher, the only wounded adult, was discharged from a hospital on Tuesday.
Here is what we know about those who were killed.
Madisyn Baldwin, 17
Madisyn Baldwin, 17, was described by her grandmother on a GoFundMe page as a “beautiful, smart, sweet loving girl.”
She was also a “talented artist and big sister,” Karen D. McDonald, the Oakland County prosecutor, said at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.
Ms. Baldwin’s grandmother Jennifer Mosqueda said that her family was “lost for words,” and that the day of the shooting had been “absolutely unbelievable for all involved.”
“This horrific day could never have been imagined or planned for,” she said.
Tate Myre, 16
Tate Myre, 16, was a linebacker and tight end on the school’s football team and had recently earned an all-region award from the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association. He died on Tuesday in a patrol car as the authorities rushed him to a hospital.
He was described by his classmates as incredibly well liked, funny — “a sarcastic, joking person” — and intelligent.
“It’s just hard for me to see this person — I have him in my yearbook pictures,” Joyeux Times, a junior, said. “We went to the same place, on the same day, expecting to go home with our families.”
An online petition to rename the school’s stadium after Mr. Myre had more than 67,000 signatures on Wednesday.
Justin Shilling, 17
Justin Shilling, 17, was on the Oxford Wildcats boys’ bowling team, according to the school’s website. He had scored a match victory in March, helping lead the team to a 30-0 win.
He died on Wednesday at about 10:45 a.m. at McLaren Oakland Hospital in Pontiac, Mich., according to the authorities.
Mr. Shilling was also an employee of Anita’s Kitchen, a Mediterranean restaurant in the county. The restaurant said in a Facebook post that he was an “exemplary employee” and “simply a pleasure to be around.”
“We lost one of our family members,” the restaurant said.
Hana St. Juliana, 14
Hana St. Juliana, 14, was the youngest person killed. She was a freshman who played on the volleyball and basketball teams, officials said.
At the news conference on Wednesday, Ms. McDonald, the prosecutor, said the girl’s parents wanted people to know that their daughter was “one of the happiest and most joyful kids.”
She had played volleyball since middle school and wore the No. 9 jersey on the Oxford team, The Detroit News reported.
The Oxford High School women’s basketball team said on Twitter that since sixth grade, Ms. Juliana had “stayed dedicated to Oxford basketball, soaking in the game.”
A teacher and three students who were injured in the shooting at Oxford High School have been released from hospitals, according to the county sheriff’s office, but three students remain hospitalized.
The names of the wounded were released on Wednesday in charging documents filed against the 15-year-old suspect. He faces seven counts of assault with intent to murder, in addition to four counts of first-degree murder.
One of the students still in a hospital is Phoebe Arthur, 14, who was shot in the neck and chest. She has improved from critical to stable condition after undergoing surgery, said Ed Ernest, her second cousin. “We appreciate the support and everything that we’ve seen from the community and the whole nation,” he said.
Molly Darnell, a 47-year-old teacher, was released from a hospital after being grazed by a bullet. She began teaching for Oxford Community Schools in August 1998, according to the school’s website. Aiden Watson, an injured student, was released on Tuesday before attending a vigil at LakePoint Community Church.
It is unclear which other two students have been released.
At least three of the injured students were athletes, according to the school website: John Asciutto, a freshman who played running back and defensive back for the football team; Riley Franz, a freshman on the girls’ soccer team; and Kylie Ossege, a freshman on the girls’ basketball team. Elijah Mueller was also listed as a victim in the charging documents.
Along with four counts of first-degree murder, prosecutors in suburban Detroit on Wednesday charged a 15-year-old boy suspected of opening fire on his classmates with a charge that is rare in school shooting cases: terrorism.
The prosecution said the charge was intended to hold the boy, Ethan Crumbley, accountable for the harm committed against students who were not physically injured but will carry emotional scars from the attack.
“What about all the children who ran screaming, hiding under desks?” Karen D. McDonald, the Oakland County prosecutor, said at a news briefing. “What about all the children at home right now who can’t eat and can’t sleep and can’t imagine a world where they can ever step foot back in that school? Those are victims too, and so are their families and so is the community. And the charge of terrorism reflects that.”
Sheriff Michael Bouchard of Oakland County echoed the rationale, describing the disarray that law enforcement officials found in the hallways and classrooms at Oxford High School, where backpacks were strewn across the floor.
“If you weren’t hit by a bullet, it doesn’t mean you weren’t terrorized that day and won’t have nightmares about it the rest of your life,” Sheriff Bouchard said.
The call to label suspects as terrorists is a common refrain after mass shootings, but terrorism charges in school shooting cases are rare.
In some cases, school shootings are not prosecuted as terrorism because the gunman dies in the attack, according to Lance Hunter, a professor at Augusta University who studies terrorism. In other situations, school shootings do not meet the legal definitions of terrorism, which vary by state and at the federal level.
According to some commonly cited federal definitions, terrorist acts are distinguished by being politically motivated. According to Michigan state law, an act of violence can constitute terrorism if it is intended to “intimidate or coerce” a civilian community or government, regardless of political motivation.
Barbara McQuade, a professor of law at the University of Michigan who served as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, said the prosecution would need to prove that the suspect intended to create fear within the school, based on evidence like social media posts and statements from classmates, teachers and family members.
“If you wanted to create fear within that school or that community that would be sufficient, but you would need evidence to prove it,” Ms. McQuade said. “I don’t think the shooting alone is evidence.”
Investigators have not publicly identified a motive in the shooting, which they said was premeditated. If convicted, the suspect could receive a life sentence.
Joyeux Times lingered a little longer than usual in the hallway of Oxford High School on Tuesday, talking with friends before heading to her fifth-period physics class. That’s when the chaos started.
“I just heard a gunshot out of nowhere,” said Joyeux, 16. “And a bunch of people are rushing down the hallway, and I start to see somebody fall.
“I’ve never heard a gunshot before,” she continued through tears. “It’s probably one of the most scariest things I’ve ever heard in my life.”
The authorities say the suspect in the shooting at the school in suburban Detroit, a 15-year-old sophomore, can be seen on security camera footage emerging from a bathroom with a handgun and shooting randomly at students.
Joyeux remembers helping a few classmates who fell in the pandemonium as they all rushed to the exit door and into the school parking lot. Some students continued running, she said, while others jumped into cars and drove off.
Joyeux ducked behind a car, she said, and started dialing the phone numbers of her father, her stepmother, her brother and some of her best friends, leaving messages telling them how much she loved them.
“Time was moving so slow for me because I just didn’t know in that moment if I was going to live or die,” she continued. “So I needed to be careful about what I was doing. I needed to make sure that I was going to call everybody that I was supposed to call.”
Her mother — who works at the nearby middle school — picked up. The two made a plan to meet up at the nearby Meijer grocery store designated as an official gathering spot for school evacuations.
“When they lock the doors, they’re not allowed to open,” Joyeux said, referring to the students and teachers who barricaded themselves in classrooms. “So if you’re in that hallway, I guess your best option would be to hide in the bathroom. But if you’re outside, run to Meijer as fast as you can. Get out and run to Meijer.”
Joyeux followed a mass of students as they raced through the parking lot and into the snowy woods on their way to the grocery store. “It’s snowing, so it’s 10 times harder to run in the snow with gym shoes on.”
She remembers the fear in her mother’s face when they met in the parking lot. She climbed into the car and they hugged, and she spent the rest of the day fielding phone calls from relatives and classmates.
“When I got home, I couldn’t really do much,” she said through tears. “I just couldn’t do anything except for feel it, and not really know. This just cannot be real, this cannot be happening.”
The authorities in Michigan said they had collected a large amount of evidence against the 15-year-old boy accused of killing four classmates and wounding others at Oxford High School, including cellphone videos where he talked about killing students and a journal in his backpack that detailed his desire to shoot up the school.
“There is a mountain of digital evidence: videotape, social media,” Karen D. McDonald, the Oakland County prosecutor, said on Wednesday. “We have reviewed it and absolutely we are confident that we can show it was premeditation.”
Officials said that the school was covered in security cameras, and that footage showed the teenager leaving a bathroom with a gun in his hand on Tuesday afternoon. They said he then walked down the hallway, aimed the gun at students and started firing. The gunfire continued for several minutes as students started running away.
“What’s depicted on that video — honestly, judge, I don’t have the words to describe how horrific that was,” said Marc Keast, the prosecutor who presented the case at the suspect’s arraignment, where the teenager was ordered held without bond and transferred to an adult jail.
The authorities served a search warrant at the boy’s home on Tuesday night and searched Oxford High until early Wednesday. They declined to provide many specifics about the evidence they gathered, but said the boy had apparently posted a photo of the weapon he used, along with a target, on social media. They said his father had bought that gun four days before the shooting.
Ethan Crumbley, the suspect in the deadly mass shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan, was arraigned in Oakland County on Wednesday on 24 felony counts. Though Mr. Crumbley is 15, prosecutors charged him as an adult.
The list is not final, and can be amended later by prosecutors or the court. Here is a rundown of the counts that were listed at the arraignment.
Terrorism causing death
Michigan’s antiterrorism law defines an act of terrorism as a willful and deliberate act that meets these conditions:
The act would be considered a violent felony under state law;
The person who commits it knows or has reason to know that it is dangerous to human life;
The act is intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, or to influence a unit of government through intimidation or coercion.
When an act of terrorism causes death, it is generally punishable by life in prison without the possibility of parole. But for a defendant who was under 18 at the time of the crime, as the suspect was, the law gives prosecutors the option of asking instead for a maximum sentence of up to 60 years and a minimum of at least 25 years.
One of the ways Michigan law defines first-degree murder is any “willful, deliberate and premeditated killing.” At the arraignment on Wednesday, prosecutors listed one count for each of the four people who by that time had died as a result of the shooting.
First-degree murder is generally punishable by life in prison without the possibility of parole. But as with the terrorism count, for a defendant who was under 18 at the time of the crime, the law gives prosecutors the option of asking instead for a maximum sentence of up to 60 years and a minimum of at least 25 years.
Assault with intent to commit murder
Michigan law defines this crime simply as assaulting another person with the intention of murdering the person. At the arraignment, prosecutors listed one count for each of the seven surviving victims of the shooting.
The law provides wide latitude in punishing this crime, allowing for prison sentences “of life or any number of years.”
Possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony
Under Michigan law, with some exceptions that do not apply to this case, a person who carries or possesses a firearm when committing or attempting to commit a felony would be guilty of this additional crime if convicted of the underlying felony. It, too, is a felony.
At the arraignment, prosecutors listed one firearm possession count to go with each of the terrorism, murder and assault counts — 12 in all.
This crime is punishable by two years in prison on first conviction, and the sentence comes with some special provisions. It cannot be suspended; it must be served before the sentence for the underlying felony (they cannot run concurrently), and there is no parole or probation permitted for the firearm possession sentence.
The rampage on Tuesday at Oxford High School, north of Detroit in Oakland County, was the deadliest shooting on school property this year, according to Education Week, which tracks such shootings in the United States and has reported 28 of them in 2021.
“It’s devastating,” said Tim Throne, the Oxford Community Schools superintendent, on Tuesday. The district canceled classes for the rest of the week and said grief counseling would be available.
The authorities received the first of more than a hundred 911 calls about the shooting at 12:51 p.m. on Tuesday, Michael McCabe, the Oakland County undersheriff, said. Students rushed for cover and barricaded classroom doors with chairs when they heard the first gunshots, and would later describe frantically hiding and then fleeing from the school after long minutes of terror.
“I was just kind of sitting there shaking,” said Dale Schmalenberg, 16, who said he was in calculus class when his teacher heard a gunshot and locked down the classroom. “I didn’t really know how to respond.”
Officials said the gunman fired 15 to 20 shots with a semiautomatic handgun, killing four students and wounding six others and a teacher, before being apprehended.
The violence in Michigan comes after a reduction in school shootings earlier in the coronavirus pandemic, when some schools held classes remotely. But mass shootings at schools have been a recurring tragedy in recent years. In 2018, a gunman killed 17 people and injured 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Later that year, a gunman killed 10 people at Santa Fe High School in Texas.
“This is a uniquely American problem that we need to address,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan said.
Three students recounted what they saw when the shooting started at Oxford High School on Tuesday. The quotes have been edited for length and clarity.
“I was in my biology room, just like laughing with a couple of my friends, and, just like a normal day. And then I hear gunshots coming from close by — and my mood just switched. I went from laughing to crying in about a second.”
“We just got in the corner, and sat down exactly how we were supposed to — like we followed the protocols that we practiced, and everyone followed. No one talked, we didn’t scream or anything, we were just silent.”
“I was just walking in the hallway. And then just a bunch of kids start running at me. And I didn’t know what was happening. Then one kid yelled, ‘School shooter.’ Said he wasn’t sure, then he saw a trail of blood on the floor.”
“My brother texted my group chat with my parents and stuff. He’s like, ‘Help, he’s right by me.’”
“I sit right next to the door, and I heard boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.”
“There’s like loud noises in the school a lot. So we didn’t know 100 percent sure, but since we all heard the same thing, and you know, better be safe than sorry.”
“We just bombarded the door with a bunch of chairs, desk, everything we could find completely got the door shut down.”
The semiautomatic gun used in the shooting at a Michigan high school was purchased by the suspect’s father on Nov. 26, four days before Tuesday’s shooting.
The firearm was a 9-millimeter Sig Sauer pistol, and there were remaining rounds loaded in the gun when the suspect was arrested, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said at a news conference on Tuesday night.
The sheriff said the gun had 15-round magazines.
Sheriff Bouchard said that officials did not know if there were other firearms in the suspect’s home, adding that was part of the investigation.
He confirmed that photos of a firearm, posted by the suspect on social media, appeared to be the same gun used in the shooting.