Michigan High School Shooting: 3 Students Killed and Several Critically Injured

Date: 2021-11-30T21:02:33.000Z

Location: www.nytimes.com

OXFORD CHARTER TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Students at Oxford High School in suburban Detroit rushed for cover and barricaded classroom doors with chairs when they heard the first gunshots on Tuesday afternoon. Within five minutes, the authorities said, a 15-year-old sophomore at the school had shot 11 people, killing three of his fellow students and leaving others with critical injuries.

The authorities identified the dead 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. The injured students ranged in age from 14 to 17, officials said, including three who were in critical condition and another who was in serious condition. The only adult who was shot, a 47-year-old teacher, had been discharged from a hospital.

“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.”

The rampage 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 and has reported 28 of them in 2021.

Students described frantically hiding in classrooms and fleeing from the school after long minutes of terror. Shaken parents rushed to a local grocery store to reunite with their children. Officials across the country issued statements of sadness and frustration, as area residents announced a vigil and prepared for funerals.

“It’s devastating,” said Tim Throne, the Oxford Community Schools superintendent.

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. Officials said the gunman fired 15 to 20 shots with a semiautomatic handgun before being apprehended.

On Tuesday evening, a suspect — a male student at the school whom officials did not identify — was being held at a juvenile jail while the authorities served a search warrant at his family’s house in the village of Oxford, Mich.

Undersheriff McCabe said the suspect, who had been in class earlier Tuesday, “gave up without any problems.” When the boy’s parents went to a sheriff’s substation, they declined to let investigators question their child.

The authorities said that they did not believe that the student had planned the shooting with anyone else and that they were still investigating whether it was a random or targeted shooting.

The county sheriff, Michael Bouchard, said 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 the gunman was still armed, with seven bullets in the gun, when he was arrested by deputies in a school hallway. Sheriff Bouchard said investigators had been told the gunman pretended to be an officer in order to access barricaded classrooms.

In a statement, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer described gun violence as a “public health crisis,” adding: “No one should be afraid to go to school, work, a house of worship, or even their own home. This is a time for us to come together and help children feel safe at school.”

President Biden, speaking at an event in Minnesota, said, “My heart goes out to the families enduring the unimaginable grief of losing a loved one,” adding, “That whole community has to be in a state of shock right now.”

The shooting brought outpourings of sympathy from Michigan politicians. The state’s attorney general, Dana Nessel, said her office had reached out to the local authorities and offered to assist with the investigation.

“We must act to properly address gun violence in our schools and the ongoing threat of another unconscionable tragedy if we continue to only offer thoughts and prayers,” Ms. Nessel said. “Our kids deserve better.”

Elissa Slotkin, who represents Oxford Charter Township in Congress, said she was traveling back to the state.

“We must continue to pray and hope for the additional students and teacher who have been injured, and for the students who are in shock right now,” Ms. Slotkin said on Twitter. “They will somehow have to make sense of one of their peers doing this to them.”

Undersheriff McCabe said the school was blanketed with security cameras and had repeatedly worked with law enforcement to hold active shooter drills. A sheriff’s deputy and security guards were assigned to the building, and students described frequent lockdown drills. The undersheriff said one of the deputies who helped take the suspect into custody was assigned to patrol the high school full time.

“The school made sure that we knew where to go, who to call and how to act,” said Eva Grondin, a 15-year-old sophomore, who attended active shooter training several weeks ago, and who fled from a hallway to a parking lot on Tuesday when she heard gunfire. “If we didn’t have this training I don’t know what would have happened.”

“It was really traumatic,” she said, recalling the sound of gunshots making a noise that sounded like banging on the lockers. “No one talked, we didn’t scream or anything, we were just silent,” she said.

Reporting was contributed by Christine Chung, Maria Cramer, Claire Fahy, Jacey Fortin, Dana Goldstein, Giulia Heyward, Eduardo Medina and Jim Tankersley.

A sheriff’s deputy tried to rush Tate Myre, a 16-year-old who had recently won honors as a linebacker and tight end on his football team, to a hospital on Tuesday after the teenager was shot at Oxford High School.

He died in the patrol car.

“There was no time to wait,” Sheriff Michael Bouchard of Oakland County, Mich., said late Tuesday. “He tried to load him into the car to get him as fast as he could to a hospital, and he expired in the car.”

On Tuesday night, more than 25,000 people had signed a petition online to rename the school’s stadium after Tate, who had recently earned an all-region award from the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association.

Madisyn Baldwin, 17, Justin Shilling, 17, and Hana St. Juliana, 14, also died in the attack.

Seven other people were injured, Sheriff Bouchard said, including a 14-year-old girl who was in critical condition with chest and neck wounds; a 15-year-old boy who was in critical condition with a head wound; a 17-year-old girl who was also in critical condition with chest wounds; a 14-year-old boy with serious jaw and head wounds; a 17-year-old girl who was shot in the neck; and a 15-year-old boy who was shot in the left leg.

The sheriff said the wounded 14-year-old was placed on a ventilator after surgery: “It’s looking very tough for this young girl.” A hospital spokeswoman said Wednesday morning that the girl remained in critical condition, but had no further updates.

A 47-year-old female teacher whose shoulder was grazed by a bullet was discharged from a hospital after treatment.

In a message posted on Facebook early Wednesday, Sheriff Bouchard said he had just left the school and that it was evident from the scene that the lockdown protocols that the school had in place saved lives.

“My heart aches for families that will never be the same and a quiet sweet community that had its innocence shattered,” he said.

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.

From the moment that the authorities confirmed reports of a fatal shooting inside a Michigan high school on Tuesday, officials across the country expressed shock and Democratic leaders renewed their calls for more to be done to reduce gun violence.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan said in a statement that she was “devastated for the students, teachers, staff, and families” of the school where the shooting occurred, Oxford High in Oakland County.

Calling gun violence a “public health crisis,” she added that “no one should be afraid to go to school, work, a house of worship, or even their own home. This is a time for us to come together and help children feel safe at school.”

At a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, Ms. Whitmer, her voice breaking, said, “I think this is every parent’s worst nightmare.”

President Biden also offered condolences to the victims of the shooting.

“As we learn the full details, my heart goes out to the families enduring the unimaginable grief of losing a loved one,” he said, before speaking about infrastructure in Minnesota.

“That whole community has to be in a state of shock right now,” Mr. Biden added.

Dana Nessel, the attorney general of Michigan, said in a statement that her “heart goes out to the parents who have lost their children and to the students, teachers, staff, and families reeling from the tragedy of a school shooting within their community.”

Echoing Ms. Whitmer, she added that “we must act to properly address gun violence in our schools and the ongoing threat of another unconscionable tragedy if we continue to only offer thoughts and prayers. Our kids deserve better.”

Rosemary Bayer, a state senator who represents the district that includes Oakland County, said in a statement that “the news of today’s school shooting at Oxford High School is simply horrifying.”

Mallory McMorrow, a Democratic state senator representing Royal Oak, said on Twitter that she was “at a loss of words, and I don’t want to hear ‘thoughts and prayers.’”

She added that “I want everyone in any position of authority to agree that easy access to firearms that allow children to kill other children is not an acceptable world to live in and that we will do everything to stop it.”

James Tankersley contributed reporting.

The A.P. statistics class had just started when Aiden Page, a senior at Oxford High, heard the sound of two gunshots. His teacher immediately locked the door, he said, and the rest of the class helped put up a quick barricade and cover the windows with whiteboards before hiding around the room.

They were prepared, he said in a phone interview with The New York Times. They do drills for shootings like this several times a year.

But this wasn’t a drill. Aiden texted his family and told them he loved them. Then he checked on his friends, to make sure they were OK, he said.

Some students, he recalled, armed themselves with scissors while the teacher walked around quietly, checking on them. Later, after the gunman was taken into custody, Aiden said he was still processing what happened.

Students and staff members at Oxford High School did everything right as the school shooting unfolded on Tuesday, the undersheriff of Oakland County said.

“Everybody remained in place,” the undersheriff, Michael McCabe, said at an afternoon conference. “They barricaded themselves.”

“You never think it’s going to happen to you,” Aiden said. “And then it does. It’s just insane.”

He said he always felt safe at the school, and he didn’t know the gunman or his motive.

He planned to return to the school, but it would take some time before he was ready.

“Definitely not like tomorrow or probably even not this week,” he 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.”

Scott Atkinson

The last time I was inside the walls of Oxford High School, it was for an active shooter drill.

I was a reporter then, for a local paper, and Oxford was where I had spent years as a student. It was more than a decade ago and such drills were relatively new at the time. I thought that taking part in one of them would be a compelling story — a way to show people what it might be like to live through a horrible moment.

Loud bangs were used to simulate gunshots. Smoke filled the halls. I ran with people into bathrooms; into classrooms. My heart beat loudly, even though I knew it was a drill. But that was the point of it.

After the real-life simulation, when I walked out of my former school, I remember thinking to myself: “God I hope this never happens here.”

I hate that today, it did.

Three teenage students were killed on Tuesday in the school district I graduated from. In the halls I used to walk. The classrooms where I struggled with math. The cafeteria that hosted after-school dances.

I was 13 years old when the Columbine massacre happened. I was in the eighth grade, in that building — back then, it was a middle school. I wish I could say that I remember details of that day, but I don’t. All I remember is fear that something like that could happen at my school.

Drills like the one I covered years ago have become commonplace at schools across the country, including at Oxford High School. Students interviewed after the shooting said that the school had had such a drill last month and Michael McCabe, the Oakland County undersheriff, said that even though there had been a detailed plan in place to respond to such a tragedy, “you never think it’s going to happen where you live.”

Karen Workman

The deadly gunfire in Oxford, Mich., on Tuesday added one more episode to a growing list of fatal shootings on school property in the United States this year, following a lull in shootings earlier in the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the news outlet Education Week, there have been 28 school shootings resulting in injury or death so far in 2021, with 20 of them reported since Aug 1. The publication says that at least nine people have been killed by gunfire on school property this year, including two people who were shot by police officers.

Before Tuesday, none of the shootings in the publication’s list involved more than one death.

School shootings are tallied in different ways by different organizations, but the trends are similar. Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun-control advocacy group that uses news reports to track gunshots being fired on or into school property, recorded 138 such episodes in 2021 through mid-November.

The Everytown organization’s spokesman, Noah Levine, said that there were 32 reported incidents of gunfire on school grounds in September and another 32 in October, the most for a single month since the group began counting in 2013.

Last month, a shooting that the authorities said happened during a fight at a high school in Arlington, Texas, left four people injured.

In September, a student was fatally shot at his high school in Winston-Salem, N.C. In August, police officers fatally shot an 8-year-old girl outside of a high school football game in Sharon Hill, Pa., and a middle-school student killed another student in a lunchtime shooting in Albuquerque, N.M.

Large-scale shootings in all public places, not just schools, fell sharply in 2020. But other types of shootings — including homicides in which the killer knew the victim — appeared to have been more frequent in 2020 than in 2019. The Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as an episode in which four or more people are injured or killed, not including the perpetrator, counted 611 such shootings in 2020, compared with 417 the year before. The group’s tally for 2021 is already over 650, with a month left to go in the year.

Oxford High School is a public school in Oakland County, Mich, north of Detroit.

It is the only high school in the Oxford Community Schools district, which says that it offers families “a small town feel within the metro Detroit area.”

Less than 6,000 students across five townships and two villages in southeastern lower Michigan are enrolled in the overwhelmingly white district. The school offers a program where students can take college credits and earn an associate degree by graduation.

Once the location of a middle school, an architecture firm in neighboring Bloomfield Hills finished transforming the space into Oxford High School in 2004. Close to $40 million went into renovating the high school, which is now home to at least 33 classrooms, as well as a large gymnasium and a performing arts center.