Federal lawsuit filed against Oxford High School on behalf of six victims of mass shooting

The lawsuit alleges school officials failed to follow a policy on handling suicidal students

click to enlarge Justin Shilling, left, and Tate Myer were killed in the Nov. 30 mass shooting at Oxford High School. - COURTESY PHOTOS
Courtesy photos
Justin Shilling, left, and Tate Myer were killed in the Nov. 30 mass shooting at Oxford High School.

The parents of two Oxford High School students who were fatally shot in the Nov. 30 massacre have filed a federal lawsuit against the school district, saying authorities were negligent in preventing the mass shooting.

Four other students injured in the shooting joined the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court on Sunday.

The lawsuit argues that school officials violated state law and the district’s policy on suicide intervention by failing to take adequate steps to remove the 15-year-old shooter, Ethan Crumbley, from school and notify the proper authorities of his troubling behavior.

The families of Justin Shilling and Tate Myer, who were killed in the shooting, are plaintiffs in the lawsuit. An additional two students, Hana St. Juliana and Madisyn Baldwin, were also killed. St. Juliana’s family filed a separate civil suit in federal court.

Shilling’s parents, Craig Shilling and Jill Soave, said at a news conference Monday that their son, who would have graduated last week, had so much potential.

“We’re beyond heartbroken,” Soave said. “We’re traumatized, and we’re devastated, and we’re not OK. It has been 174 days since he was murdered, and it feel like it was just last week. For me, there will never be healing. There will only be coping. I will never be the same.”

Craig Shilling said he is devastated and has trouble sleeping.

“Let me tell you: When the reality of something like this really hits you, it feels like an explosion in your mind,” he said. “The shock of it cripples you to the point that you can’t really function.”

Shilling’s parents said they’re angry that the school isn’t turning over evidence to their attorney, Ven Johnson, who still has not received video footage of the shooting.

“We deserve to know what the hell went wrong for something like this to happen,” Shilling said. “Identifying the problem is the first step to finding the solution, and a proper solution can prevent something like this from happening again.”

In the days before the shooting, school officials failed to intervene despite a pattern of troubling behavior by Crumbley. He told his mother he was seeing demons. A day before the shooting, he was caught at school searching for ammunition online. And on the day of the shooting, a teacher spotted an alarming drawing in which he depicted a person who had been shot and the words, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”

School officials also failed to search Crumbley’s backpack, where he had a gun and ammunition.

Johnson said Crumbley was clearly crying out for help and demonstrating dangerous behavior that should have prompted school officials to follow the district’s policy on suicide intervention.

Among other things, the policy requires school officials to search the student for dangerous objects and notify state authorities.

“After this intervention, they gave him the backpack without searching, which we now know had the gun, ammunition and the manifesto – a 30-page document where he outlined his entire plan,” Johnson said. “Had they done and followed their policy, this mass murder would have been prevented and these folks wouldn’t be up here talking about the death of their son, who should have graduated last Thursday.”

Crumbley has been charged as an adult with murder and other crimes. His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, were charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Stay connected with Detroit Metro Times. Subscribe to our newsletters, and follow us on Google News, Apple News, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, or TikTok.

About The Author

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
Scroll to read more Metro Detroit News articles
Join the Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.

Newsletters

Join Detroit Metro Times Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.