Third party will probe Oxford, Michigan, school shooting as questions mount over warning signs

·5 min read

An outside party will investigate events leading up to the deadliest school-related shooting in three years as questions continue to swirl throughout the devastated Oxford, Michigan, community.

Oxford Community Schools Superintendent Tim Throne said he called for the third-party probe because parents have raised questions about "the school's version of events" regarding the Tuesday shooting, which left four students dead and six other students and a teacher wounded.

“It’s critically important to the victims, our staff and our entire community that a full and transparent accounting be made,” Throne said in a statement Saturday.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Sunday indicated she has offered her department's services to conduct an independent investigation. "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 tweeted.

Concerns over warning signs that preceded the tragedy have ratcheted up in recent days.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald gave a litany of red flags Friday about the student 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.

Ethan Crumbley, 15 – who is now charged as an adult with murder, terrorism and other crimes – was taken to the guidance counselor's office where he claimed the drawing was part of a video game he was designing, Throne said. Crumbley worked on homework under the watchful eyes of counselors, he said, until his parents arrived.

“At no time did counselors believe the student might harm others based on his behavior, responses and demeanor, which appeared calm,” Throne said.

“While both of his parents were present, counselors asked specific probing questions regarding the potential for self-harm or harm to others,” Throne said, adding counseling was recommended for him, and his parents were notified that they had 48 hours to seek it. “When the parents were asked to take their son home for the day, they flatly refused and left without their son, apparently to return to work.”

All 3 in cusotdy: James and Jennifer Crumbley join son in custody after late-night capture in Detroit

Crumbley went back to class with his backpack and authorities were not not notified. The shooting erupted hours later.

“The school should have been responsible to relay that to the sheriff’s office. It looks like this could have been prevented,” Robert Jordan, founder and director of St. Louis-based Protecting Our Students, said Friday. “People died because of those mistakes.”

Prosecutors on Friday charged his parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter.

The 9mm semi-automatic pistol used in the shooting was bought at a local gun shop on Black Friday by James Crumbley as a Christmas present for his son, authorities said.

A shaken Oxford, Michigan, community is struggling to pick up the pieces after last week's shooting tragedy.
A shaken Oxford, Michigan, community is struggling to pick up the pieces after last week's shooting tragedy.

Parents arrested after manhunt; all 3 in same jail

The parents were arraigned Saturday just hours after a dramatic manhunt by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Officials have said the couple took $4,000 out of an ATM in Rochester Hills and ended up in Detroit, where police found them in an art studio inside a commercial building on the city's east side.

James and Jennifer Crumbley – 45 and 43, respectively – appeared in court by video later that morning. Jennifer Crumbley broke down when asked whether she understood the charges against her and James Crumbley shook his head multiple times as McDonald spoke.

“These two individuals could have stopped it and they had every reason to know that he was dangerous and they gave him a weapon and they didn’t secure it and they allowed him free access to it,” McDonald said during Saturday's hearing.

The couple's son is accused of killing four students – Hana St. Juliana, 14; Tate Myre, 16; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Justin Shilling, 17 – and injuring seven other people.

The couple's attorneys, Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman, have accused prosecutors of cherry-picking facts in the case and said there is more going on than the court is aware.

Parents' bond at 1M: Bond set at combined $1 million for parents of Michigan school shooting suspect after overnight arrest

Both parents pleaded not guilty.

Judge Julie Nicholson set bond for each at $500,000 cash – substantially more than the $50,000 to $100,000 the couple’s attorneys requested, but the amount prosecutors sought. Involuntary manslaughter is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

All three Crumbleys are in the same jail, but they are not allowed contact with each other. "No talking. No communication," Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said. "They are all three in isolation."

Former neighbor recalls earlier years

A former neighbor told the Detroit Free Press she had concerns about their parenting long before Tuesday's tragedy.

Jennifer and James Crumbley often left their young son home alone while drinking at bars in downtown Lake Orion in 2014 and 2015, former neighbor Kayla LeMieux said. The boy would have been between 8 and 9 years old at that time.

The couple, who records show married in 2005, lived near downtown Lake Orion before moving to Oxford.

It was so concerning to LeMieux, 28, that she said she made an anonymous phone complaint to the state’s Children’s Protective Services.

'Intent to kill': Timeline of deadly shooting at Oxford High School

“When they were gone, he would come knock on our door,” LeMieux said of the boy. “They didn’t leave him with a phone.” The boy would ask LeMieux to call his parents, she said.

LeMieux said she never knew whether any action was taken after the complaint with Children’s Protective Services. State officials said Saturday they couldn’t comment.

“CPS complaints are confidential by law,” Bob Wheaton, a spokesman with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, wrote in an email.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Michigan school shooting will have third party probe as questions rise

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