January 19, 2022

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3 dead, 8 injured in Oxford High School shooting; suspect is 15-year-old student – Detroit Free Press

6 min read

A 15-year-old Oxford High School sophomore, armed with a semiautomatic handgun, is accused of a shooting at his school Tuesday afternoon, killing three students and injuring seven others and a teacher. 

The incident unfolded in about five minutes and police said the shooter, who was not injured, was arrested, turning himself over to officers. 

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said she planned to issue “appropriate  charges quickly” and that the community has her commitment and promise that she “will seek justice.”

Michael McCabe, the Oakland County undersheriff who lives about 1½ miles from the school, said at a news conference it appeared the suspect worked alone and investigators are interviewing students and scouring social media for clues to a motive.

Police said the three slain students were a 16-year-old boy, and two girls, 14 and 17. Two of the other victims were in surgery Tuesday evening, and the other six were at hospitals in stable condition.

It was unclear whether the suspect had targeted anyone. Some said he was bullied.

Meanwhile, pastors and religious leaders organized two prayer vigils, one at Kensington Church in Lake Orion and the other at Lake Point Community in Oxford, for the mourning survivors. A Mass was also organized at St. Joseph, also in Lake Orion.

As the nation’s latest mass shooting draws national media attention, it puts questions of what to do about guns and renews political debates about gun control, violence and school safety.

At a 5 p.m. news conference, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called mass shootings a “uniquely America” problem that needs to be addressed. Later, responding to a reporter’s question about how she felt, her voice wavered. 

Near tears, she added: “I think this is every parent’s worst nightmare.”

Police said they were unaware of any warning signs, but some parents and students said they had heard rumors before Tuesday that something bad might happen at the school. 

Earlier this month, Oxford schools published a note to parents that it was aware that “numerous rumors” had “circulated throughout our building this week,” and the school was reviewing the concerns. 

For most of Tuesday afternoon, law enforcement officers surrounded the school, helicopters swirled over the snow-covered parking lots and worried parents took to social media to find out what was going on. 

“As Michiganders, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect each other from gun violence,” Whitmer said in a statement, ordering flags to be lowered. “No one should be afraid to go to school, work, a house of worship, or even their own home.”

President Joe Biden — who was briefed by Jake Sullivan, his national security advisor, while traveling in Minnesota — said: “My heart goes out to the families that are enduring the unimaginable grief of losing a loved one.”

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A chaotic scene

Oxford High School students who were interviewed by reporters described a chaotic and confused scene in which a voice came on over the intercom to announce an active shooter.

At first, they said, they didn’t know whether it was a drill.  

But, when they realized it wasn’t, they were struck by fear and panic. 

They said teachers locked and barricaded doors, covered windows — and some students hid. Those with cell phones quietly texted to alert their parents and friends what was happening. Students were in tears. 

Some students said they could hear loud bangs.

By early afternoon, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office said it had taken the suspect — and the handgun — into custody. Officials said they were shocked and devastated and asked for prayers. 

The suspect, police said, asked for an attorney.

Some parents later said even before the shooting rumors had been circulating that a school shooting was going to happen, and some students even said that they had decided not to attend.  

Robin Redding, the parent of a 12th-grader, told the Associated Press that there had been rumblings of trouble at the school.

“He was not in school today,” she said. “He just said that ‘Ma I don’t feel comfortable. None of the kids that we go to school with are going today.’ “

Jody Job, chair of the Oakland County Democratic Party and a candidate for the state house in 2020, said her son didn’t go to school Tuesday because “he felt like something was going to go down.”

“I think there was just a level of discomfort with some of the students,” she said. “I don’t know what they’re communicating to each other. That’s a whole other world I’m not a part of.”

Gun violence in schools, she said, “feels like it’s something that’s going to hit every school eventually if we don’t really start to crack down on guns and especially kids’ access to guns.” 

Oxford, MI

Victims rushed to hospitals

A public school in northern Oakland County about 45 minutes from downtown Detroit, Oxford High has about 1,800 students and draws from Oxford, Oxford Township and parts of Orion, Dryden, Metamora and Addison townships. 

The initial 911 call about the shooting, authorities said, came in about 12:51 p.m., and was followed by many more. More than 100 police officers, including the FBI special agent in charge, and paramedics responded.

Ambulances took the victims to three local hospitals.

Shortly before 1:45 p.m., a long line of students could be seen walking west on Ray Road to a nearby Meijer store. Police vehicles, fire trucks and ambulances surrounded the school, while officers in tactical gear went in and out.

Abbey Hodder, a 15-year-old sophomore, was in chemistry class when she thought she heard glass breaking.

“My teacher kind of ran out and was scrambling,” she said. “The next thing I knew I saw he was pushing tables. It’s part of school protocol to barricade, so we all knew, barricade, barricade down. And we all started pushing tables.”

They then lined up along a wall and grabbed something to throw, also part of the active shooter training they’ve had, Hodder said. But not long after, she added, her teacher told them to jump out a window and run.

Authorities said there didn’t appear to be other threats, but were double and triple checking the school, where some students were reportedly hiding, according to parents who were in contact with them. 

Students with transportation were allowed to leave.

Others were told to gather at the Meijer, which is within walking distance of the school. 

State Rep. Gary Howell, R-North Branch, tweeted that his son is a teacher at the high school. Howell said it was the “scare of his life” when he heard the news of the shooting. 

“Thank God we have received word from John that he and his students are safe,” he added in his tweet. “Please join us in praying for the other students and staff at Oxford.” 

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Possible active shooter at Oakland County high school

An outpouring of grief

Throughout metro Detroit, residents and public officials expressed condolences. 

“We are deeply saddened by today’s tragic events in Oxford,” the Detroit Tigers tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and the entire community impacted by this tragedy.”

Attorney General Dana Nessel, the state’s top law enforcement officer,  said her department reached out to local law enforcement to offer assistance as the investigation continues.     

“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,” she said. “Our kids deserve better.”  

U.S. Rep. Lisa McClain said she “can’t imagine the pain their families are going through.”

“This is an incredibly sad day for Oxford and our entire state,” she added. “I want to thank our first responders for their bravery during this tragedy and ask you all to keep Oxford in your prayers.”

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin praised the first responders and level-headed teachers.

“In this moment of tragedy, there are heroes showing who they are,” she tweeted. “Thank you to everyone who is stepping up to help in our community’s time of need.”

Staff writers Nushrat Rahman, Dave Boucher, Todd Spangler, Elisha Anderson, Kristen Jordan Shamus, Adrienne Roberts and the Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Frank Witsil: 313-222-5022 or fwitsil@freepress.com.

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