DETROIT — An Oxford High School student narrowly escaped potential death in Tuesday's tragedy by running from a boy's bathroom where a classmate was fatally shot, the Free Press has learned.
A source with knowledge of the mass shooting said that during the rampage that would leave four students dead and six students and one teacher injured, the killer used a handgun to fatally shoot Justin Shilling, 17, inside a school bathroom.
A second student who also was inside the bathroom at the time Shilling was shot in the head, at close range, was able to run from the bathroom and escape, the source said.
The disturbing new details emerged Friday in what appears to be the deadliest school shooting in the nation since 2018.
Shilling, praised as a dedicated student and athlete, was pronounced dead Wednesday at McLaren Oakland Hospital in Pontiac, officials said. Justin's family made the decision to donate his organs to Gift of Life, and his body was kept alive until the organs could be harvested Friday, said David Jones, a hospital spokesman.
The source's description of the circumstances under which Shilling was shot is consistent with an account circulated on social media after it was sent as a private chat message by a student at the high school who said in the message that he was in the bathroom at the time Shilling was shot, but was then able to flee the killer.
The Free Press spoke Thursday with that student's father, who confirmed his son sent the chat message, but said his son had not intended that it be shared and did not want to discuss the shooting. The Free Press is not naming the student.
The insides of bathrooms are among the few places inside the high school where there are no video cameras. But there is exterior video of the second, fleeing student running from the bathroom, the source said.
The account is also corroborated, in part, by a public Facebook post from an Oakland County sheriff's deputy who said he was among the first responders to the high school. The social media post said the deputy held the hand of an injured student he later learned was Shilling inside a bathroom at the school, until he could be taken to the hospital by ambulance. The Free Press has confirmed the identify of the deputy but has not been able to reach him and is not naming him at this time.
The Oakland County Sheriff's Office declined comment, except to say that Shilling family members have told them they do not wish to be contacted by the media. The county prosecutor's office did not respond to messages seeking comment Friday.
The suspect, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, was taken into custody at the scene and has since been charged as an adult with 24 criminal counts, including terrorism, first-degree murder and more. Officials seized a semi-automatic handgun used in the shooting.
Crumbley's parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, also were charged Friday with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. Police have said that Crumbley's father purchased the gun on Black Friday -- four days before the shooting.
Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said Friday the gun was purchased for the son by his father, and on the day of the shooting, after they had been advised by school officials about concerns he could act out violently, both parents "failed to ask their son if he had his gun with him or where his gun was located, and failed to inspect his backpack for the presence of the gun, which he had with him."
The other students killed were Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14, and Madisyn Baldwin, 17.
Shilling's parents said in an open letter that described their grief at the loss of their son, and obtained by the Free Press, that Justin was a dedicated student and athlete. He played on Oxford's golf team and was a member of the bowling team.
One of Shilling's three jobs was at the Lake Orion location of Anita's Kitchen, a Middle Eastern restaurant.
"We’ve just learned of the passing of one of our bright, young Lake Orion employees, Justin Shilling, in relation to the tragic events that took place at Oxford High School yesterday," the company posted on its Facebook page. "Justin was an exemplary employee, a devoted friend and co-worker, co-captain of his bowling team, and simply a pleasure to be around. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time."
Free Press staff writers Elisha Anderson and John Wisely contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Oxford school shooting: Student fled bathroom to escape death