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Lawsuit over Oxford High School shooting claims negligence by some school staff and the shooter’s parents

<i>Paul Sancya/AP</i><br/>A lawsuit regarding the November school shooting in Oxford
Paul Sancya/AP
A lawsuit regarding the November school shooting in Oxford

By Taylor Romine, CNN

A lawsuit regarding the November school shooting in Oxford, Michigan, claims certain staff members as well as the parents of the alleged shooter were negligent in their handling of the suspect.

The plaintiffs — three students, their families and the estate of Tate Myre, who died from his injuries from the shooting at Oxford High School — allege extreme emotional distress, the lawsuit says.

The three students who survived witnessed the deaths of their friends and classmates, including one student whose friend was shot and killed while they were hiding in a bathroom stall, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday.

The students now experience “severe mental disturbance” and suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, according to the lawsuit.

Four students were killed in the shooting: Myre, age 16; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Hana St. Juliana, 14; and Justin Shilling, 17, authorities said.

The suspected shooter, Ethan Crumbley, was able to allegedly commit the acts he did because of the lack of action by the dean of students, two school counselors, three teachers and his parents, according to the lawsuit.

“EC [Ethan Crumbley] exhibited some concerning, strange and bizarre behavior which should have alerted his parents, as well as other people who had extensive contact with him, that he was suffering from significant psychiatric problems, and that he might have been subject to child abuse and/or neglect by his parents,” according to the filing.

“Our goal is to hold ALL people accountable who caused/contributed to this tragedy,” Ven Johnson, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told CNN in an email.

CNN has been unable to reach the defendants for comment.

In a previous statement to CNN regarding a similar lawsuit filed in December on behalf of two other survivors, an attorney representing the Oxford Community School District said the district and all its personnel have fully cooperated with the investigation into the shooting.

“In pursuing the investigation, prosecutors have asked and the school district certainly agrees, and we have made the commitment not to do or say anything that would confuse, interfere with or in effect obstruct their pursuit of justice on behalf of the victims of these criminal acts,” attorney Tim Mullins said. “The school district is honoring that commitment.”

Crumbley faces 24 charges, including one count of terrorism causing death and four counts of first-degree murder, in connection with the shooting at Oxford High School, 40 miles north of downtown Detroit. Crumbley, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, is being charged as an adult.

His defense attorneys filed a notice on Thursday saying that they plan to “assert the defense of insanity at the time of the alleged offense.”

Crumbley’s parents were arrested days after the shooting and charged with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter, as prosecutors accused them of disregarding signs their son was a threat and giving him easy access to the gun. They have pleaded not guilty.

Lawsuit claims warning signs were repeatedly ignored

Many of the claims in the lawsuit echo what prosecutors have shared over the course of their criminal investigation.

This includes concerning behaviors like Ethan Crumbley allegedly decapitating and torturing animals, having “potential hallucinations and/or delusions,” and generally showing signs of depression and suicidal ideation, according to the lawsuit.

Around May 2021, Crumbley was “so distraught and upset with his life … that he stopped doing his homework,” the lawsuit says, and was shocked that his parents didn’t seem to notice or care.

As prosecutors have previously alleged, the lawsuit also states that Crumbley had unrestricted access to the gun his parents bought for him.

Jennifer and James Crumbley either dismissed or were not properly aware of the things their son did, the lawsuit alleges, and their lack of action led to the events on November 30, the day of the shooting.

In addition to Crumbley’s parents, the lawsuit says that some school officials and teachers did not do enough “to protect him from his own suicidal ideation and the clear risk that he would become a murderer,” and did not report the parent’s lack of actions to Child Protective Services soon enough.

Specifically, the failure of the dean to search Crumbley’s bag after a teacher found Crumbley’s drawings of a gun and a person bleeding on the day of the shooting ended up being “an essential factor” that led to the deaths and injuries of students, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also says the teacher’s and counselor’s failure to include the school safety liaison officer in the meeting with Crumbley’s parents prevented him from “taking action to prevent the mayhem that followed.”

The plaintiffs are requesting monetary and exemplary damages to be determined by a jury, as well as attorney fees, the lawsuit says. Attorneys for the plaintiffs did not specify a specific amount they are seeking.

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