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An attorney representing several families whose children were killed or injured in the Nov. 30, 2021 shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan, argued Thursday that school staff ignored the gunman’s warning signals for months.
Ethan Crumbley, who was 15 when he allegedly shot and killed four students that day and injured several others inside the school, drew disturbing photographs, wrote answers to assignments involving teachers, and viewed images of bullets and a video of a shooting on his phone. in the months and days leading up to the shooting.
“Today he watches videos on his phone of a man shooting people. It looks like a movie scene and not security footage/a real event, but certainly worrying when you consider some of his other behaviours,” a teacher wrote in a statement. e-mail to school counselor Shawn Hopkins, named in attorney Ven Johnson’s lawsuit against Oxford school staff.
Hopkins and Dean of Students Nicholas Ejak met Crumbley and his parents, each facing four counts of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting, to discuss violent drawings he had created just hours before the deadly disaster. During the meeting, the suspect was able to convince them that the drawings in question were for a ‘video game’.
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His parents would have “flatly refused” to take their son home, Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said in December 2021.
Crumbley “knew he would be questioned, so he edited the drawing and wrote: ‘This is a video game’, ‘I love my life so much!!!!’, ‘OHS rocks!’, ‘We’re all friends here, ‘ and ‘harmless act,'” claims Johnson’s lawsuit.
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But even months prior to the shooting, teachers flagged warning signs that were largely ignored by other school staff.
“What we know now is this. Literally from the start of school, Ethan Crumbley showed signs of being a very troubled person to say the least,” Johnson said at a news conference Thursday, citing several statements from Oxford High School teachers and advisers.
In late August 2021, Crumbley drew an image of what appeared to be himself, alongside what Johnson said was an image of a gun attached to an assignment his teacher handed out in class. The teacher testified that she didn’t see the drawing until months later, Johnson said. That same teacher caught him watching violent videos on the day of the shooting and warned school staff.
That same month, on another assignment, Crumbley said his favorite book was “Resistance and Making Bombs for Hitler.”
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In September 2021, Crumbley was the subject of an email from his Spanish teacher to Hopkins.
“Could you please get in touch with Ethan Crumbley?” she wrote. “In his autobiographical poem, he said he feels terrible and that his family is a mistake. Unusual reactions, for sure.”
Hopkins would never speak to Crumbley again after that, although the counselor apparently told the Spanish teacher that he had spoken to the 15-year-old, Johnson said Thursday.
Two months later, on November 10, 2021 – 20 days before the shooting – Spanish teacher Hopkins sent another email saying that Crumbley “is currently having a hard time”. Johnson claims that Hopkins eventually pulled Crumbley out of his classroom and invited him to a counselor’s office to talk whenever he wanted, to which the 15-year-old replied, “OK.”
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One of Crumbley’s teachers also took pictures of his drawings from the morning of the shooting and took them to the high school reception to show the staff.
In addition, a classmate told the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department that on or about Nov. 25, Crumbley told him, “If I ever tell you not to go to school, don’t,” Johnson said. The next day, Crumbley allegedly showed his classmate his gun and a target on his Instagram account.
Johnson argues that defendants in the civil case assumed that other defendants were taking care of teachers’ concerns.
“Everyone assumes that everyone is doing something and nobody is doing anything,” the lawyer said.
Buck Myre, the father of 16-year-old Tate Myre, who was killed in the shooting, condemned the school district for failing to take “responsibility” for its actions and decisions before and after Nov. 30, 2021. He also said it appears there are no clear “process” was for teachers to express their concerns to school staff.
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“If you look at these emails being sent by the teachers, there’s no consistency about who the emails are going to. That tells me there’s no process to attack something like that,” Myre said Thursday. “Obviously, Oxford Community Schools are withholding information. They know they dropped the ball… Meanwhile, here we are buying commemorative shirts for our murdered child. What is Oxford Community Schools doing? Nothing.… They are hiding behind inviolability of government .”
Johnson has filed civil suits on behalf of several students and families affected by the shooting, accusing Crumbley, parents James and Jennifer Crumbley and school staff of negligence. A judge recently ordered the release of materials, including: surveillance images of the shooting, in Johnson’s case.
The four victims who died in the November 2021 shooting were Myre, 16-year-old Justin Shilling, 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana and 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin.