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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, February 29, 2024 | Back issues
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Family of Michigan shooting victim sues school officials, accused gunman

Attorneys say school counselors and teachers had enough evidence to alert local authorities about a potential shooting but failed to do so.

PONTIAC, Mich. (CN) — A second lawsuit against school officials in Oxford, Michigan, was filed Thursday by the family of Tate Myre, a 16-year-old student who was shot and killed during a deadly shooting spree at Oxford High School in November.

The complaint, filed in Oakland County Circuit Court, accuses Oxford teachers and counselors of not doing enough to stop accused gunman Ethan Crumbley from carrying out the rampage even though he exhibited “strange” and “bizarre” behavior. The 15-year-old shooting suspect and his parents are also named as defendants.

“No child should have to go through this,” lead attorney Ven Johnson said at a press conference Thursday morning in Southfield, about 40 miles south of Oxford.

He added, “We have so many things in the law already in place that unfortunately is not being enforced very well.”

The lawsuit accuses school counselor Pam Parker Fine of violating the Michigan Child Protection Act when it became clear to her that Crumbley’s parents would not respond to her calls after Crumbley was caught looking at ammunition on his cellphone.

“When you see something that looks really bad, then we want these folks to err on the side of caution and report so the authorities…can do their job,” Johnson said.  

Johnson lamented the state laws in place that provide governmental immunity but vowed to press on.

"This case will go up on appeal and will take literally years and years because of the extra steps that we have to go through here in Michigan," he said. 

Buck Myre, father of Tate Myer, spoke at the press conference and listed holiday events and milestones he would never share with his son again.

“Going off to college, probably playing football in college, chasing his dream,” he said.

He added through a quivering voice: “Our family will never be the same.”

Surviving student Keegan Gregory and his family are also listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Gregory was with his friend, 17-year-old Justin Shilling, when he died. One chilling portion of the lawsuit describes a moment where Crumbley discovered both boys hiding in a bathroom stall. Crumbley allegedly shot Shilling in the head, killing him as Gregory texted his family. Gregory ran away when Crumbley ordered him onto the floor.

“The Oxford defendants…owed [Crumbley] the obligation to protect him from his own suicidal ideation and the clear risk that he would become a murderer, as he did,” the lawsuit states.

A request for comment from Oxford Community Schools was not returned at press time.

Crumbley's parents, Jennifer Crumbley and James Crumbley, are also named in the lawsuit after being charged with involuntary manslaughter. Their son has been charged as an adult with terrorism causing death, four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder and 12 counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony over the Nov. 30 shooting.

School officials were ignored when they attempted to contact James and Jennifer, according to prosecutors, while Jennifer texted Ethan to playfully scold him. “Lol. I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught,” she allegedly wrote.

Both Crumbleys went before a judge on Jan. 7 in an unsuccessful effort to lower their bond.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen D. McDonald went through a list of damning actions at the hearing she said proved the parents were a flight risk.

“We need to talk about…what Jennifer and James Crumbley did on Nov. 30 just hours after their son murdered children in a school,” she said. "They started making plans…they drove to Lapeer and stayed in a hotel…they also purchased a total of four cellphones…they drained their son’s bank account, transferring $3,000 into their own account leaving him with a balance of $0.99.”

The Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office released drawings made by the teen that were discovered by teachers in late November. One of the captions read “blood everywhere.” McDonald said he later altered the drawings to cover up the violence.

When news of the shooting became public, McDonald said Jennifer reached out to her son via text.

“Ethan. Don’t do it,” she wrote.

The couple's next hearing date is set for Feb. 8.

Thursday's lawsuit is the second filed against school officials following a federal complaint filed earlier this month seeking $100 million in damages.

The accused gunman has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him and recent court filings point to an insanity defense, according a report in the Detroit Free Press.

"Please take notice that...Ethan Crumbley intends to assert the defense of insanity at the time of the alleged offense," his lawyers, Paula Loftin and Amy Hopp, wrote in a filing in Oakland County Circuit Court.

Three students were pronounced dead the day of the shooting and a fourth victim succumbed to his injuries the next morning. Eight others were injured, including a teacher. The weapon used was a 9mm Sig Sauer SP 2022 pistol, according to Oakland County Sherriff Michael Bouchard. The suspect had at least two 15-round magazines, including one with seven remaining rounds.

Oxford, population 3,586, is in central Oakland County, about 40 miles north of Detroit.

Categories / Criminal, Education, Regional

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