‘This is an unimaginable tragedy’: Whitmer, Biden, react to Oxford High School shooting

Dec 1, 2021 at 9:40 am
click to enlarge Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issues a statement following the Oxford High School shooting. - Screengrab/Twitter
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issues a statement following the Oxford High School shooting.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lowered American flags across the state as communities reel in the wake of a shooting that took place Tuesday at Oxford High School, where a 15-year-old opened fire, killing three students and injuring eight others.

"My heart breaks for the students, teachers, staff, and families of Oxford High School," Whitmer wrote in a statement, in which she expressed gratitude for first responders.

"As Michiganders, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect each other from gun violence. No one should be afraid to go to school, work, a house of worship, or even their own home. Gun violence is a public health crisis that claims lives every day. We have the tools to reduce gun violence in Michigan. This is a time for us to come together and help our children feel safe at school." she wrote. "My heart is with the parents who had their children taken from them today and with the entire community in Oxford."

Those killed have been identified as Tate Myre, age 16; Hana St. Julian, 14; and Madisyn Baldwin, 17. Of the eight people injured, all were students except for a 47-year-old teacher who has since been discharged from the hospital with a shoulder wound.

Police arrived at Oxford High School at 12:51 p.m. Tuesday, and within five minutes of the first of what is reported as more than a hundred 911 calls, two officers apprehended the suspect, who has been identified only as an Oxford resident and sophomore at the school. He is currently being held at Oakland County Children's Village and is under suicide watch, The Oakland Press reports.

No motive has been identified, however, officials believe the suspect planned the shooting alone and fired 15-20 shots during the five-minute rampage. Police retrieved a semi-automatic handgun and three ammunition clips from the scene.

"My heart goes out to the families of all those in Oxford, Michigan experiencing the unimaginable grief of losing a loved one," President Joe Biden tweeted Tuesday. "I’m remaining in close touch with my team as new information about this tragic school shooting surfaces."

Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter echoed sentiments shared by local officials, praising the quick action from Oakland County Sheriff's Department, as well as all the first responders.

"I’m horrified by this tragic shooting at Oxford High School today. The entire Oakland County community is in shock by this terrifying display of violence and our thoughts are with Oxford families tonight," he said, adding, "The county’s Emergency Operations Center has been activated to offer any support and assistance needed by first responders and the families in Oxford today and in the days ahead."

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin expressed "horror" over the tragic event.

"I’ve been talking with Oxford leaders, parents, and students and we are all praying for the health of those injured, and the well-being of all our young people, many of whom are in shock," she tweeted. "This is a dark & painful day for Michigan. I send my deepest condolences to the families of the three students who have lost their lives — they have received the worst news any parent can ever imagine."

While the shooter's motives remain a question, many are asking a more critical question: how does a 15-year-old get his hands on a gun?

According to police, the suspect's father purchased the weapon and ammunition used in the shooting just four days earlier, on Black Friday.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and David Hecker, president of AFT Michigan, expressed condolences to those impacted by the Oxford High School tragedy and are asking elected officials to prioritize gun reform to protect communities like that of Oxford.

"No parent should wonder whether a child or frankly anyone in the school community will return home safely," the statement reads. "Once again, it’s heartbreaking to see the impact gun violence has on students’ lives. AFT is dedicated to ensuring our communities and schools are safe and working to curb gun violence is key to that —we hope our elected officials, regardless of what party they represent, will do what’s necessary to protect students and staff from unspeakable tragedies like what happened today."

A video of U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut went viral on Tuesday when he "turned the car around" to give an impassioned speech on the floor of the Senate, in which he called out the hypocrisy of his Republican colleagues for their unwavering "fealty to the gun lobby" while also preaching about the "sanctity of life" when discussing abortion.

"Do not lecture us on the sanctity and importance of life when 100 people every single day are losing their lives to guns," he said. "When kids go to school fearful that they won't return home because a classmate will turn a gun on them when it is in our control whether this happens."

He continued, "This only happens in the United States of America, there is no other nation in the high-income world in which kids worry about being shot when they go to school. It happens here in America because we choose to let it happen, we are not unlucky, this is purposeful and a choice made by the United States Senate to sit on our hands and do nothing while kids die."

Amid the wave of responses to the Oxford tragedy on social media, and, later, photos of the victims, heartbreaking footage captured by an Oxford High School student has also surfaced.

The video shows what is believed to be the shooter impersonating police, as students barricaded in a classroom are faced with determining whether they should open the door. When the believed shooter uses the word "bro," the students agree that using casual lingo was a red flag and, instead of opening the door as the voice demanded, they proceeded to escape out of a window.

"No child should ever have to jump out of a window because they’re afraid that someone is knocking on the door to murder them," journalist David Leavitt said of the video.

According to Education Week, there have been 28 schools shootings in the U.S. this year so far. Of those shootings, the Oxford High School shooting is reported as the deadliest shooting on school property since May 2018, when a gunman opened fire killing 10 at Texas' Santa Fe High School.

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