Michigan’s Oxford High School knew that accused killer Ethan Crumbley was homicidal and suicidal, but administrators “escalated the danger” by releasing him from a “safe zone” before the massacre, a victim’s family claims in a federal lawsuit.
On Nov. 30, 2021, Crumbley allegedly fatally shot four students and seriously injured seven others. The family of one of the slain high schoolers, Hana St. Juliana, detail the fateful tour hours preceding the shootings in a federal complaint filed in the Eastern District of Michigan.
According to the lawsuit, Crumbley went to school armed with a handgun and bullets that he kept in his backpack. His first hour English teacher told officials that Crumbley was watching a video of a shooting during class, and his second hour math teacher reported Crumbley’s disturbing drawings and jottings on a paper assignment, the family says.
“The thoughts won’t stop,” Crumbley wrote, according the lawsuit. “Help me… blood everywhere… My life is useless… The world is dead.”
The family says that Crumbley’s counselor Shawn Hopkins removed him from class and confiscated the paper with the violent words and images, then brought to a meeting with dean of students, Nicholas Ejak.
Hopkins and Ejak are both named as defendants in the lawsuit.
Both men allegedly concluded that Crumbley had suicidal and homicidal ideation and advised his parents to take their son for immediate mental health counseling. Prosecutors have cited the alleged refusal of his parents—James Crumbley, 45, and Jennifer Crumbley, 43—in their involuntary manslaughter case.
According to the St. Juliana family, Hopkins and Ejak had the authority to keep the younger Crumbley in their office for the rest of the day. Instead, they gave Crumbley a hall pass and returned his unsearched backpack, which contained the alleged murder weapon, the lawsuit says.
A representative for the Oxford Community School District, the lead defendant, did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s request for comment. The final named defendant, superintendent Ken Weaver, is being sued only in his official capacity.
According to the complaint, the school has previously cited an “adherence to police” defense of its actions, claiming that Crumbley could only be held for a disciplinary matter.
“In truth, the District did know that [Crumbley] was suicidal and possibly homicidal when he was released from the Counselor’s office,” the complaint states. “The District has advanced the ‘adherence to policy’ explanation to cover up its culpability for this tragedy. The truth is that school officials escalated the danger by releasing [Crumbley] from a safe zone with knowledge of [Crumbley]’s propensity to inflict harm upon himself or others.”
The complaint shields Crumbley’s name as John Doe, who is not named as a defendant.
The family members bringing the lawsuit are father Steve St. Juliana and sister Reina St. Juliana, a 16-year-old Oxford student who survived the shooting in a nearby hallway.
They accuse the school and administrators of causing a state-created danger and gross negligence. The lawsuit, said to the be the first of its kind from relatives of a slain Oxford student, seeks unspecified punitive damages under Michigan’s wrongful death statute.
The family also wants a court order requiring the district or Weaver to “publicly retract all statements made in the course of its cover story after the shooting.”
Read the complaint, below:
(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]