An attorney for several plaintiffs who lost loved ones in a massacre at Michigan’s Oxford High School on Nov. 30, 2021, said that depositions with school staffers revealed that alleged mass murderer Ethan Crumbley was a well-known problem long before any bullets were fired.
“Oxford Community Schools, as you all know, has done nothing but cover up and conceal this information from not just the public [and] to my clients obviously who have sustained losses unbearable for most of us to even think about,” said attorney Ven Johnson on Thursday.
Four students died in the massacre: Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana, Madisyn Baldwin, and Justin Shilling.
Johnson represents the relatives of Myre and Shilling.
He described the district’s responses to questions about Crumbley’s alleged warning signs as “adding insult to injury.”
“What we now know is this: from literally the beginning of school, Ethan Crumbley was evidence and signs of being [a] highly troubled individual to stay the least.”
Johnson said one of Crumbley’s teachers received a notecard from Crumbley which Johnson characterized as a drawing of Crumbley holding a firearm. The firearm was not visible on the drawing as Johnson displayed it at a Thursday press conference, but Johnson asserted that Crumbley’s teacher claimed it was there at one point. It apparently was later erased.
The attorney said Crumbley submitted the card as part of an introductory assignment around the first day of school in late August to tell his teacher “a little bit about yourself,” including “what you like” and “what you don’t like.”
Despite the early date of the assignment, the attorney said the teacher claimed she didn’t look at the card until the day before the Nov. 30, 2021 massacre — about three months after Crumbley submitted it.
“So, even though he drew it and he gave it to her, she claims she didn’t look at it, so I would just ask us to think about that,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the teacher admitted the item on the left side of the frame could be a “magazine full of bullets like the bullet at the top” of that depicted item.
“This was one of the first days of school,” Johnson reiterated.
The teacher claimed in her deposition that she would have done something had she seen the drawing earlier, Johnson said.
On Sept. 8, 2021, Crumbley was the subject of an email from Diana McConnell, a Spanish teacher, to Shawn Hopkins, a counselor.
The email said Crumbley responded to an assignment for an autobiographical sketch by writing that he “feels terrible and that his family is a mistake,” Johnson related.
“Unusual responses for sure,” the teacher’s email continued, again according to Johnson.
The counselor spoke to the Spanish teacher but not to Crumbley, Johnson indicated. When being deposed about that conversation, the attorney said Hopkins claimed McConnell backed away from her concerns because she came to assume Crumbley’s responses were merely part of an assignment and not part of a real-life problem.
In characterizing those responses from Hopkins, Johnson said McConnell blatantly missed the call of the question of her own assignment as “autobiographical.”
According to Johnson, McConnell told the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department after the Nov. 30 shooting that Hopkins claimed he spoke to Crumbley about the subject matter of the Sept. 8 email around the time it was sent.
“We now know Hopkins never did that, so, again, another potential contact with concerning behavior from Crumbley,” Johnson said.
On Nov. 10, 2021 — 20 days before the shooting — McConnell sent Hopkins another email which said Crumbley was “having a rough time right now.”
Hopkins said he summoned Crumbley out of class and into a hallway and offered to help him. Crumbley’s only response was “okay.”
Johnson said Hopkins was ignoring multiple warnings at that point and failed to give Crumbley a private area in which to discuss his struggles.
“Hopkins did virtually nothing,” Johnson said.
Johnson said McConnell has not yet been deposed.
He said the evidence he uncovered should have been revealed long before now by the school district. He noted that the district refused an independent review by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.
On Nov. 29 — the day before the shooting — Johnson said English teacher Jacquelyn Kubina sent an email to Dean of Students and Assistant Principal Nicholas Ejak and another staffer named Pam Fine, who had an office in the counseling area, about Crumbley.
That email warned Ejak and Fine that Crumbley was looking at bullets on his phone as Kubina was passing out essays.
Kubina said Crumbley was “on my radar” but that she didn’t have a chance to investigate further because she incident occurred at the end of her scheduled class time.
Kubina also warned Ejak and Fine that her review of Crumbley’s work from earlier in the year revealed that it “leans a bit toward the violent side” and that she was “concerned.”
The teacher suggested that Crumbley did not attempt to hide his phone from her. The teacher took the lack of an attempt to cover up the search as a good thing, but Johnson said it was a sign that Crumbley was undeterred.
Johnson suggested that Ejak and Fine failed to adequately follow up on the email or review the “violent” prior assignments that Kubina had referenced.
The attorney for the families of the two victims who died in the school shooting then said many people referred to Crumbley as “just another Oxford kid.”
“This is what I’ve heard now for two weeks under sworn deposition testimony: ‘just another Oxford kid who likes guns.'”
“It’s completely normal behavior — allegedly,” Johnson said as if to mock the deposition answers he said had been repeatedly proffered to him.
“Which is a lie,” he added as a retort to those claims.
The attorney said a proper investigation, including interviews with classmates, would have revealed the depth of the problem. For instance, Johnson pointed to a sheriff’s office interview with one of Crumbley’s classmates after the shooting. That interview revealed that Crumbley allegedly vouchsafed a chilling warning on Nov. 25 — five days before the shooting.
“If I ever tell you not to come to school sometime, don’t,” Crumbley allegedly told his classmate.
The classmate miscalculated by assuming Crumbley was kidding, Johnson said.
The next day, Crumbley showed the fellow student pictures of his gun, the attorney added.
On a subsequent day, Crumbley showed the classmate a “single bullet.”
“This kid didn’t know what to do,” Johnson said, and didn’t report the incidents.
On Nov. 30 — the day of the shooting — Johnson said special education teacher Allison Karpinski emailed both Hopkins and Fine to report that Crumbley was watching violet videos on his phone.
“Today he’s watching videos on his phone of a guy gunning down people,” that email read, according to Johnson. “It looks like a movie scene and not security footage/a real event, but definitely concerning when taking into account some of his other behaviors.”
In sum total, Johnson suggested that the district had plenty of warning signs that Crumbley could have been a deadly problem.
“Everybody’s assuming that everybody else is doing something and no one’s doing anything,” Johnson asserted.
The attorney said school staffers brushed off almost every possible warning sign, including other violent scenes that were revealed shortly after the shooting, because “kids at Oxford have guns — that’s the defense in this case.”
Johnson also claimed the district was resting some of its defense on Crumbley’s assertion that he was designing a video game.
“To hear adults — to hear teachers, to hear school administrators — be sworn to tell the truth across the table from me and my team and tell me that these things aren’t concerning — just normal behavior for kids from Oxford — nothing’s concerning about bullet holes in a guy with blood everywhere — two different drawings of a firearm in school — looking at bullets on a phone — ladies and gentlemen, I can’t think of anything more grotesque and concerning,” Johnson said. “Apparently the only thing that was going to stop Ethan Crumbley from the school’s perspective that day was if he would have handed them his manifesto and just said, ‘why don’t you read what I’m going to do today.'”
The attorney said the district’s failures added up to gross negligence — a legal conclusion that has not yet been adjudicated in court.
“To me, this is beyond neglect, it’s unforgivable,” said Jill Soave, Justin Shilling’s mother, while fighting through tears. “We have four angels that are gone . . . I can’t find an excuse for dropping the ball again and again and again . . . this could have and should have been avoided.”
Buck Myre, Tate Myre’s father, said the evidence suggested to him that the school didn’t have a proper process in place for dealing with violent ideations.
“Accountability . . . is owning what you do,” the father responded. “It’s blatantly obvious that Oxford Community School is withholding information. They know they dropped the ball that day at every level. That’s why they’re hiding it.”
Crumbley is charged as an adult with four counts of first-degree murder. His parents are charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the attack. All have pleaded not guilty.
The full press conference is below:
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