The red flags were plentiful, a new civil lawsuit filed by four victims and their families in connection to the Nov. 30 Oxford High School mass shooting claims.
“This is the gun I’m going to use,” accused Oxford High shooter Ethan Crumbley wrote two weeks before the attack, according to a social media comment presented by attorney Ven Johnson. Johnson, who represents the families in the lawsuit, held up a three-foot tall, blown-up printout of the words during a press conference on Thursday, Jan. 27.
Johnson then propped up another image of a test paper on which Crumbley, a 15-year-old sophomore, allegedly scrawled the words, “help me,” “blood everywhere,” and “the thoughts won’t stop,” next to doodles of a gun, bullet and what the prosecutor has described as an apparent wounded person.
Johnson, founder of Ven Johnson Law with locations in Flint and Detroit, said no one helped Crumbley, despite his pleas, and they should be held civilly liable for gross negligence. The lawsuit doesn’t specify an amount for a lawsuit, but states it is in excess of $25,000, the threshold for filing in circuit court.
The parents of two Oxford High School students sat at a table alongside the attorney, including: William and Sheri Myre, the parents of 16-year-old junior Tate Myre, who was fatally shot; and Chad and Meghan Gregory, the parents of Keegan Gregory, who narrowly escaped and now suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome. The lawsuit is also filed by Lauren Aliano, the mother of Sophia and Grace Kempen.
The complaint, filed in Oakland County Circuit Court, names Crumbley’s parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley; Oxford High School Dean of Students Nicholas Ejak; guidance counselors Pam Parker Fine and Shawn Hopkins and three unidentified teachers as defendants.
Johnson highlighted the fact that Oxford Community Schools isn’t named in the lawsuit because of governmental immunity that protects public entities from liability and some lawsuits.
“If this had happened at a private school, there would be no governmental immunity because it’s private,” Johnson said. “We talk about negligence every day. We all know what it is — it’s a mistake, they made a really bad mistake and it hurt somebody. That’s (what) I have to prove, but because these people are employed by a municipality or the state, governmental immunity applies.
“Ladies and gentlemen, under Michigan law, I can’t even sue Oxford as an entity. I want to. They deserve it. But I can’t under Michigan law.”
William Myre told media he’s “fully aware that people will misperceive” why the families filed the lawsuit, but assured it is not based on greed.
“We tell Tate and his brothers to be responsible for their actions and always be accountable,” he said. “It would be a dishonor to Tate if we didn’t do this and (uphold) the values we stand for as a family.”
Myre said “the ball was dropped and there needs to be accountability,” but also broader legal changes to immunity laws.
While politicians “keep us deflected on wedge issues, pushing us far left and far right, they have passed legislation that takes away our rights, Tate’s rights, all the kids’ rights at any public school,” he said. “Let that sink in … If your child is at a public school they have less rights because of government immunity and that needs to change.”
Myre, who sat beside his wife, also talked about the impact the shooting has had on the family.
“Today is the 58th morning that we’ve woken up without Tater,” the grieving father said. “We’re heartbroken, our lives forever changed.”
Thanksgiving, Christmas, his 17th birthday. These are all dates that have passed since their son’s death. William Myre said they’ll never see their son go to college, marry, stand in his brother’s wedding, get a first job or have a child.
“People are calling, texting us all the time, asking how we’re doing,” he said. “We’re not doing good. All we do is walk around the house and think about Tate. We think about him every day. We sit in his room. We listen to his playlist on Spotify.”
Gregory, the father of Keegan Gregory, who survived, talked about what it was like seeing his son following the shooting.
“When our son returned home, he was ice cold, like a rock, no emotion,” the father said. “He wouldn’t hug us back. He’s changed. His moral compass is shattered. He suffered injuries so severe. It’s invisible, so people won’t know, but he could look at all of you in this room right now and wonder if any of you are going to shoot him.”
When the shooting commenced, Keegan Gregory and victim Justin Shilling, 17, were in the bathroom, held at gunpoint by the shooter, Chad Gregory said.
“The shooter took his fourth victim in that bathroom,” he said. Schilling was shot and killed. Chad Gregory said his son was told to get against the wall, next to his friend’s body.
“When the shooter took his gun off Keegan … he ran down empty hallways, past Tate’s body,” Chad Gregory said.
The lawsuit recites many of the details already revealed during criminal court hearings and during press conferences.
“For somebody, who, for the entire year of 2021 was on his computer, on his cellphone that his parents gave him, shooting videos of himself hurting animals, killing animals … laughing about it, posting it,” attorney Johnson said. “We’ve all seen the stories. We’ve all read the same stuff, but when you have a child that is hurting an animal, that is a precursor to someone with highly violent propensities. It was a telltale sign.”
Johnson noted that Crumbley was removed from his classroom twice in two days, including on the morning of the attack, for exhibiting disturbing behavior, including looking up ammunition on his phone, and on the day of the shooting caught with the violent and pleading writing and drawings on his test paper and in a separate incident watching a shooting on his phone.
“Why would a kid in the middle of the school day look at ammunition on his phone,” the attorney said.
Four days prior, Crumbley’s parents are accused of purchasing him a handgun, the one he’s suspected of killing classmates with, as an early Christmas present.
A school employee called Crumbley’s mother about the ammunition incident, but she didn’t answer or call back, according to Johnson.
He alleges the behavior Crumbley was exhibiting for months and the lack of action his parents took rises to the level of negligence that school officials should have seen and reported as required by law.
“Who doesn’t call back,” Johnson said. “The level of suspicion went from highly suspicious to off-the-charts knowing something was wrong. (The employee) had reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or neglect. Something in this home is going on here that’s leading this kid to do something that’s so dumb he’s doing it in public … to the point that his teachers saw him.
“It’s almost like he wanted to get caught, so what does (the school employee) do when mom doesn’t call? Sent him back to class. That’s a violation of the Child Protective Act.”
Johnson then spoke of the incident on the day of the shooting, when Crumbley’s parents were called to the school after the disturbing drawing was discovered and their son was seen watching a violent video on his phone. Johnson said he’s waiting on the release of the investigation to determine if the same teacher was involved in both incidents.
Regarding the words Crumbley wrote on the homework paper, Johnson said, “You don’t need to be a psychologist or a psychiatrist to see and feel the sadness and desperation of the person writing this on his chapter five test review on using congruent triangles.”
“Other than simply saying, ‘by the way, I’ve got my gun in the backpack that’s in my room … I’m going to shoot up the school today,’ what else possibly could anyone want to know in terms of warning,” Johnson said.
Johnson believes that “in a weird, psychological, twisted way,” Crumbley wanted to get caught, wanted someone to intervene. He said they didn’t. Instead, they returned him to class, even delivered to Crumbley the backpack that is now believed to have contained the gun.
The plea for help that the lawsuit claims Crumbley made to school officials, friends and his parents, is something that Tate Myre’s parents hope their son’s legacy can address.
“Another thing that we hope comes out of this is mental health awareness,” William Myre said. “We feel like this is a big issue and our family is starting a foundation to address this issue, and it was something that Tate was very passionate about. It’s called 42 Strong.”
Forty-two is the number Tate Myre wore on his football jersey.
“Tate loved to mentor kids,” his father said, “and this is a peer-to-peer foundation that we’re going to launch.”
He said the foundation’s aim is to create outlets for students who are troubled to discuss issues with people.
“Unfortunately this shooter was raising his hand,” William Myre said. “People refused to see that, but if we can reach kids like this shooter and have somebody mentor him, heal his self-confidence and self-esteem, give him an opportunity to mentor.
“We feel good when we help people, right? If this kid is mentoring somebody and is getting mentored and has a purpose, Nov. 30 doesn’t happen.”
Read the full lawsuit:
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