OXFORD, Mich. (CN) — A 17-year-old Michigan student who suffered a gunshot wound to the neck in a shooting last week filed a federal lawsuit Thursday claiming Oxford school officials could have done more to prevent one of the deadliest school shootings in recent years.
Riley Franz, 17, and her family are seeking $100 million in damages. It’s the first lawsuit filed against the school regarding the Nov. 30 incident in which police say Ethan Crumbley, a 15-year-old sophomore, killed four in a high school shooting spree with a gun purchased by his parents. A second $100 million lawsuit is also expected to be filed Thursday by her 14-year-old sister, Bella Franz, who says she was traumatized when Riley was shot.
Riley's complaint names as defendants the Oxford Community School District as well as Superintendent Timothy Throne, Principal Steven Wolf, counselor Ryan Moore and other unidentified staff members.
In a boisterous press conference dripping with indignation Thursday morning, the Franz family's attorney Geoffrey Fieger of Fieger Law said everyone in American society should share the blame, especially local governments.
“That’s the unfortunate secret many people in the state of Michigan aren’t aware of. Their lawmakers…behind their back in conjunction with insurance companies, make it impossible for victims to sue,” he thundered.
The lawsuit alleges school officials should have known something was brewing.
“Crumbley acted in such a way that would lead a reasonable observer to know…that he was planning to cause great bodily harm to the students or staff at Oxford High School,” the complaint says of the suspected shooter.
Crumbley 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. His parents are also facing charges.
The lawsuit said social media posts from the Crumbley family should have caused officials to take action but were not addressed seriously enough by school administrators such as Principal Wolf, who is accused of dismissing the danger in an email.
“There is no threat at the HS…large assumptions were made from a few social media posts, then the assumptions evolved into exaggerated rumors,” Wolf allegedly wrote in an email to worried parents.
Fieger said he had access to the same evidence the public has seen but will subpoena the school district for all relevant information.
“Clearly the Oxford High School administration, including the superintendent, has not been as transparent,” he said.
A request for a comment from the Oxford Board of Education was not returned by press time.
Last Friday, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen D. McDonald announced that James Crumbley and Jennifer Crumbley will each face four counts of involuntary manslaughter for the shooting. They briefly fled from Oxford before they were apprehended in Detroit hours later.
McDonald said James Crumbley purchased the gun at ACME Shooting Goods in Oxford on Nov. 3 and Ethan was with him.
Jennifer allegedly posted about the purchase on social media the next day when they tried the firearm out.
“Mom and son day, testing out his new Christmas present,” she wrote, according to McDonald.
Days before the purchase, McDonald said another teacher reported Ethan when she caught him searching for ammo on his phone on Nov. 21.
School officials were ignored when they attempted to contact James and Jennifer, according to prosecutors, but 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.
On the morning of Nov. 30, another teacher reportedly became aware of disturbing drawings made by Ethan of a gun and of bullets hitting people. 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.
McDonald stressed that the charges against the parents were intended to send a message and that the evidence against them was so egregious she had to act.
“I think it’s criminal,” she said of their behavior.
Fieger said Thursday he was forced to sue in federal court because there were too many state laws that protect gun owners.
“The state of Michigan has passed laws that protect murders and people who assist murders…primarily the access for relief is federal court,” he explained.
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.
The four students killed were identified as Tate Myre, 16, Hana St. Juliana, 14, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Justin Shilling, 17.
Among the other victims besides Franz who survived were a 15-year-old boy with a gunshot wound to the head, a 17-year-old girl who was shot in the chest, a 14-year-old boy who suffered gunshot wounds to the jaw and hand, a 15-year-old boy who was hit in the leg and a 17-year-old boy who was shot in the hip.
Fieger said Franz had only a 2% chance of survival from her neck injury but persevered.
A 47-year-old teacher was released from the hospital when she was treated for minor injuries on her shoulder from a bullet grazing her.
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