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Suspect in Michigan School Shooting Faces Murder and Terrorism Charges

PONTIAC, Mich. — On Tuesday morning, the parents of a 15-year-old sophomore walked into Oxford High School to meet face to face with school officials who had grown concerned about their son’s classroom behavior.

Just about three hours after that meeting started, according to law enforcement authorities, the student, Ethan Crumbley, walked into a school bathroom carrying a backpack and emerged with a handgun. He began firing, killing four students and wounding seven people in the deadliest school shooting this year.

New details about the suspect’s behavior and actions in the hours leading up to the shooting spree emerged on Wednesday as he was charged with terrorism, four counts of first-degree murder and an array of other charges.

Prosecutors said they were also considering charges against the suspect’s parents. The authorities said Mr. Crumbley carried out the shooting in a Detroit suburb using a handgun his father had bought four days earlier.

On Wednesday, as people in the shattered Oxford community grieved and asked whether any warning signs had been missed, authorities offered the first details of what they described as a “mountain” of digital and paper evidence showing the suspect’s planning and desire to kill students at Oxford High School.

During a video arraignment, law enforcement authorities told a judge that investigators had recovered two cellphone videos Mr. Crumbley had made the night before the shooting in which he talked about killing Oxford students the next day. They also found a journal in his backpack detailing his desire to “shoot up” the school, authorities said.

The sheriff’s office announced the death of a fourth student on Wednesday. Credit…Nick Hagen for The New York Times

Zachary Majewski, Logan Sweeney and Rory Metzger tied ribbons to trees outside Oxford High School.Credit…Nick Hagen for The New York Times

“This defendant planned the shooting,” Marc Keast, an Oakland County prosecutor, told a judge. “He deliberately brought the handgun that day with the intent to murder as many students as he could.”

Mr. Crumbley fired more than 30 rounds as terrified students raced for safety and locked themselves inside classroom doors barricaded by desks, the authorities said. He still had 18 rounds in his possession when he was apprehended, they said.

The toll of the shooting grew on Wednesday after a fourth student, Justin Shilling, 17, died at about 10 a.m. at McLaren Oakland Hospital in Pontiac, Mich., according to the sheriff’s office.

The other students killed were 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.

At least two of the injured students, who officials said ranged in age from 14 to 17, remained in critical condition. A teacher, the only wounded adult, was discharged from a hospital on Tuesday.

The Oakland County prosecutor, Karen D. McDonald, acknowledged that her decision to charge the suspect with terrorism was not typical for a mass shooting prosecution, but she said it reflected the wider trauma suffered by the hundreds of students who fled gunshots, hid under their desks and will be haunted for years.

“Those are victims too, and so are their families and so is the community,” she said. “The charge of terrorism reflects that.”

Ms. McDonald, an elected Democrat, said she hoped the shooting would prompt changes in Michigan’s gun laws, expressing exasperation that her community had become the latest to be devastated by a deadly school shooting. There have been 29 shootings on school property this year, most of them without fatalities, according to a tally by Education Week.

“How many times does this have to happen?” she asked. “We have become desensitized to school shootings.”

Flowers were placed outside of Oxford High School.Credit…Nick Hagen for The New York Times
Embracing outside the school. Credit…Nick Hagen for The New York Times

Mr. Crumbley was also charged with seven counts of assault with intent to murder and 12 counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Classmates, family members and law enforcement officials mourned and memorialized the victims on Wednesday. As Ms. McDonald announced the charges against the suspect, she also paused to offer a few details about the victims — athletes, a big sister, an honors student, a joyful kid.

Madisyn Baldwin was described by her grandmother on a GoFundMe page as a “beautiful, smart, sweet loving girl,” and the prosecutor called her a talented artist and big sister.

Ms. Baldwin’s grandmother Jennifer Mosqueda said on the website that her family was “lost for words,” and that the day of the shooting had been “absolutely unbelievable for all involved.”

Madisyn BaldwinCredit… 

Tate Myre was a linebacker and tight end on the school’s football team and had recently earned an all-region award from the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association. He died on Tuesday in a patrol car as the authorities rushed him to a hospital. By Wednesday, an online petition to rename the school’s stadium in his honor had more than 67,000 signatures.

He was described by his classmates as incredibly well liked, funny and intelligent.

Tate Myre Credit… 

Justin Shilling was a golfer and co-captain of the boys’ bowling team at the school, according to Ms. McDonald, the prosecutor.

Hana St. Juliana, the youngest killed, was a freshman on the volleyball and basketball teams whose parents wanted people to know her as one of the “happiest and most joyful kids,” Ms. McDonald said.

The Oakland County sheriff, Michael Bouchard, told reporters that investigators were poring through many hours of video from security cameras all over the school to track the suspect’s actions, but that his targets “appeared random.”

Hana St. JulianaCredit… 

Sheriff Bouchard also said investigators had not determined a motive for the shooting, which he described as “absolutely brutally coldhearted.”

Mr. Crumbley had initially been held in a juvenile jail, but a judge later ordered that he be moved to the adult jail and held in isolation, with no contact with adult inmates. No bond was set.

At a Wednesday news conference, Sheriff Bouchard said the suspect had been called into meetings with school officials for concerning behavior twice this week, once on Monday and then in the hours before the shooting on Tuesday. His parents were also summoned to the school for the Tuesday meeting.

Despite those concerns, Sheriff Bouchard said his agency had received no information about the suspect before the shooting. Asked whether law enforcement should have been notified, he said, “We always prefer to err on the side of too much rather than too little.”

The sheriff also said his office had no indication of danger at Oxford High before the shooting. He said an incident from earlier in November involving a severed deer head at the school was not related to the shooting. And he said deputies had investigated a possible threat last month, but found that it was not credible and pertained to a school in a different state.

The sheriff said that the district had no record that the suspect had been bullied at school, and that he did not believe that specific students were targeted in the attack. A court official said during a hearing that he did not have a previous juvenile record.

A lawyer for Mr. Crumbley declined to discuss the details of the case.

With classes canceled, some of the students who survived the attack spent the day reliving the moment when fifth period exploded into a nightmare.

Hailey May and Brianna Penzien, juniors at Oxford, leaned on each other at a candlelight vigil on Tuesday. Credit…Nick Hagen for The New York Times
Several local businesses closed the day after the shooting, with one placing photos of victims on its window.Credit…Nick Hagen for The New York Times

“I’ve never heard a gunshot before,” said Joyeux Times, 16, who had been chatting with friends before her physics class when the shooting began. “It’s probably one of the most scariest things I’ve ever heard in my life.”

Ms. Times remembers helping a few classmates who fell in the pandemonium as they rushed to an exit and into the school parking lot. Some students continued running, she said, while others jumped into cars and drove off.

She ducked behind a car and started dialing the phone numbers of her father, her stepmother, her brother and some of her best friends, leaving messages about how much she loved them. Her mother — who works at the nearby middle school — picked up. The two made a plan to meet at the nearby Meijer grocery store designated as an official gathering spot for school evacuations.

“When I got home, I couldn’t really do much,” she said through tears. “I just couldn’t do anything except for feel it, and not really know. This just cannot be real, this cannot be happening.”

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