Oakland prosecutor says no charges against Oxford school officials

Pontiac — The Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office is backing away from possibly pursuing criminal charges against Oxford school officials for their role in the 2021 shooting that left four students dead.

Prosecutor Karen McDonald suggested her office may consider charges during a press conference Thursday after a jury found James Crumbley guilty of involuntary manslaughter. But late Friday, her office reversed course.

Chief Assistant Prosecutor David Williams issued a statement, saying “sufficient” evidence hadn’t been found to charge the district.

“Our office has reviewed all of the evidence in the case,” Williams said. “We did not find sufficient evidence to support criminal charges against any school district employees. We believe the Oxford community deserves full accountability, and we stand with the families in their pursuit of changes that would make that possible.”

The reversal comes 24 hours after the parents of the four children killed in the Nov. 30, 2021 mass school shooting said their fight for justice wasn’t over, even though all three Crumbleys have been convicted or sentenced.

“We’ve taken care of three legs of Nov. 30, and there’s still a fourth leg, and that’s the school. It’s time for the school to pony up. It’s time to break up that administration country club and it’s time for change,” said Buck Myre, the father of Tate Myre who was killed in Nov. 30, 2021 Oxford High School attack.

Nicole Beausoleil, the mother of Madisyn Baldwin who was killed in the school shooting, said the district — Oxford Community Schools — is not allowed to forget about their children. Justin Shilling and Hana St. Juliana were also killed.

“We need to start focusing on the school,” Beausoleil said. “The school and its failures, the things they don’t want to admit to. … They are going to see these families rise up against it and we will be here fighting every second for our children.”

McDonald and Assistant Prosecutor Marc Keast, the two attorneys who handled the prosecutions of the Crumbley family in front of the jury, were visibly exhausted and emotional at the press conference after the verdict Thursday night. As each parent of the four children who were killed in the shooting thanked prosecutors for their work on the cases, both Keast and McDonald teared up.

Both James and Jennifer Crumbley were convicted of four counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with their son’s mass shooting Nov. 30, 2021. The rare cases marked the first time parents had been criminally charged with manslaughter in connection with a school mass shooting carried out by their child.

They are set to be sentenced April 9. They face up to 15 years in prison. Ethan Crumbley, meanwhile, is already serving a life sentence at the Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer.

Before the jury gave their verdict Thursday, Shilling said he’s been looking at the next steps as well; the two civil lawsuits he filed are still awaiting an appeals decision. He said his attorney told him they could stretch the next five to 10 years. 

“I don’t think it needs to be that long, I feel that the school can accept the responsibility and accountability and let us move on with our lives, instead of having to drag us through all this,” Shilling said.

An independent review by Guidepost Solutions found that people at every level of the district failed to provide a safe and secure environment for students. They found no “intention, or callousness, or wanton indifference,” but did note failure and responsibility by omission.

Investigators found former Superintendent Tim Throne, Assistant Superintendent Jill LeMond, Assistant Superintendent Denise Sweat, Counselor Shawn Hopkins, Dean of Students Nicholas Ejak, Oxford High School Principal Steve Wolf and the Oxford school board had the most blame in failing to be proactive in handling the shooter before the mass shooting unfolded. Guidepost put the most blame for the failure to have threat assessment guidelines on Throne.

Along with the criminal cases, there also are nine pending federal lawsuits filed by the families of the children killed, injured or traumatized during the November 2021 shooting, which allege that the district took actions that created or increased the danger that the shooter presented to students and teachers.

Oxford schools are appealing U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith’s June ruling that counselor Shawn Hopkins and former Dean of Students Nicholas Ejak will continue to face “state-created danger claims.” That includes claims that Hopkins and Ejak pushed the shooter closer to violent action by threatening to report his parents to Michigan’s Child Protective Services.

All Oakland County cases against Oxford officials were dismissed in March 2021 when Circuit Court Judge Mary Ellen Brennan ruled that the shooter was the most immediate and direct cause of the shooting, and that the school was protected by governmental immunity.

The shooter was scolded by the school Nov. 29, 2021, for looking up bullets in class, and was called down for a meeting with Ejak and Hopkins Nov. 30, 2021, the day of the shooting, when a teacher saw concerning statements and drawings on a math worksheet.

Ejak and Hopkins, who testified during Jennifer’s and James’ trial that they didn’t view Ethan Crumbley as a threat but more as a student having mental health issues, did not search the teen’s backpack. The two officials also didn’t insist his parents take him home when they said they had to work.

Hopkins is currently on leave from his role as high school counselor, he said during his testimony Monday in James Crumbley’s trial, but Oxford schools have refused to say why. Hopkins did not elaborate on why he was on leave when he testified.


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