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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Three students dead, eight injured at Oxford High School. Sophomore in custody

Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe briefs reporters about a mass shooting Tuesday at Oxford High School. (Bridge photo by Paula Gardner)

Three students are dead and eight people injured — three critically —  after another student opened fire inside Oxford High School with a semi-automatic handgun on Tuesday afternoon.

The suspected shooter, a 15-year-old sophomore who has not yet been publicly identified, is in custody and on suicide watch after surrendering to police shortly before 1 p.m. 

Police said the boy fired at least a dozen shots and still had seven rounds in his handgun when deputies surrounded him in a school hallway, some three minutes into the attack.

“We're here for the worst kind of tragedy we've seen across the country. We hoped and prayed it would never come to Oakland County, but it has,” Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said late Tuesday.

The suspect’s father had bought the gun, a Sig Sauer 9mm semi-automatic, along with three 15-round magazines, the day after Thanksgiving, said Bouchard, who confirmed social media posts of the suspect showing off the gun while target shooting.

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At the 1,800-student school, just two of the magazines have been found, Bouchard said, though he said he expects the third to be found.

Authorities do not have a motive; the suspect has sought an attorney and neither he nor the parents are speaking with investigators, Bouchard said. Investigators have seized a phone and a search warrant was executed on the family’s home in Oxford.

The shooting followed social media rumors there could be violence at the school on Tuesday, causing some students not to attend, parents said. Bouchard said none of those rumors were shared with police.

"I think this is every parent's worst nightmare," said Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who joined police near the school Tuesday evening.

“I hope that we can all rise to the occasion and wrap our arms around the families, the affected children and school personnel in this community. It is an unimaginable tragedy.”

President Joe Biden added “my heart goes out to the families that are enduring the unimaginable grief of losing a loved one."

Police have identified the slain students as Hana St. Juliana, 14, a freshman volleyball player; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Tate Myre, 16, an Oxford football player who died in a deputy’s patrol car on the way to a hospital.

Hana St. Juliana, 14, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Tate Myre, 16, were killed Tuesday at a shooting at Oxford High School. A fourth student, 17-year-old Justin Shilling, died Wednesday morning.

Bouchard could not say if they were targeted or where within the school they were shot.

As of 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, the wounded include:

  • Three students in critical condition: a 15-year-old male shot in the head, and two females, 14 and 17, shot in the chest. The 14-year-old was also shot in the neck.
  • One male student in serious condition, a 14-year-old shot in the head.
  • Two male students in stable condition, a 15-year-old shot in the leg and a 17-year-old shot in the hip.
  • A 47-year-old female teacher who was discharged from the hospital with a grazing gunshot wound on her shoulder.

Authorities are not aware of any obvious “warning signs” that preceded the shooting, and the boy had not been in trouble with the sheriff’s department, Undersheriff Mike McCabe said.

Investigators were interviewing other students and plan to review school security cameras and social media accounts after the shooter invoked his right to speak with an attorney rather than immediately answer police questions, he said.

Other students were evacuated to a nearby Meijer for pickup by parents on Tuesday afternoon.

“I’m shocked,” said Superintendent Tim Throne.

“I really don’t have anything to say other than you certainly can pray for our families here in Oxford and our students,” he told reporters in a media briefing around 3 p.m. 

Officials said Oxford High School was relatively well prepared for the attack. It has an established single-point-of-entry, staff and students had participated in active shooter training and established communication protocols for emergency situations.

“Everybody was brave in this situation,” Bouchard said.

The school, like most in the United States, does not have a metal detector and the superintendent said the issue has not come up previously.

Robin Redding, told the Associated Press her son, a 12th grader, stayed home on Thursday because rumors were spreading warning of trouble.

"This couldn't be just random," Redding said.

Authorities received about 100 911 calls around 12:52 p.m. Within minutes, two deputies, including a liaison assigned to the school, apprehended the suspect, McCabe said. The shooter put his hands up and “gave up without any problems,” McCabe said.

Bouchard said that after complaints that prior school shootings elsewhere in the United States could have been avoided if law enforcement acted quickly once at a scene, he made it a priority that his deputies’ “job is to go in and neutralize the threat.”

“There will be no staging, and I'm proud to say that's exactly what happened today,” Bouchard said Tuesday night. “They went in and searched out the threat. They went to the gunshots.”

Bouchard said one of the county’s 911 operators who took calls about the shooting had a relative killed in the attack.

“This wound will never go away,” he said. “We understand that but we want the community to know we will leave no stone unturned."

Photo by Paula Gardner

Bouchard described Oxford, a community 30 miles north of Detroit, as "sweet" and "quiet." The school district has about 6,000 students and is fairly well-off. Families have a median household income of $87,076, well above the state median income of $57,144 and higher than the county's median of $79,698.

State Sen. Rosemary Bayer, a Beverly Hills Democrat who has advocated for tougher gun control measures in Lansing, called the Oxford shooting "horrifying."

“On top of an already difficult situation with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our students now have to face this traumatic situation in a place that is supposed to be a safe space for learning and growth.“My heart goes out to all those involved.

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, said Tuesday is “a deeply dark day in Michigan's history" 

“Our Oxford community is tight-knit, and people there care deeply for one another,” she wrote on Twitter. “That will be more important than ever now.”

Parents of students took to social media to alert relatives and friends.

“Stress is at an all time high for everyone,” wrote Jessica Pociask, who has a nephew at the school. “Take a moment to be kind, even if you yourself are as much in need. You never know how or when it will come back to you. 

Oakland County Democratic Chair Jody Job said she has an 18-year-old son at the school. He didn't attend school that day.

"I can't imagine what these others families are going through right now," she told Bridge Michigan later that night. "I can't believe we're here as a country with children shooting other children."

— Bridge reporter Robin Erb contributed

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