Lawyer: School Officials Gave Shooter Bag Holding His Gun

They're accused of ignoring repeated red flags from Ethan Crumbley
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 23, 2022 8:33 AM CDT
'Unforgivable': School Allegedly Ignored Shooter's Red Flags
Students hug at a memorial at Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., Dec. 1, 2021.   (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

School officials returned a backpack containing a pistol and magazines to a 15-year-old who would use them hours later to kill four students, alleged a lawyer for the families of two victims who died in the Oxford High School shooting in Michigan last November. They've filed a $100 million gross negligence lawsuit against the Oxford Community School District. Lawyer Ven Johnson told reporters Thursday that Ethan Crumbley was summoned for a meeting with counselor Shawn Hopkins and dean Nicholas Ejak on Nov. 30 after a teacher found a disturbing drawing on his desk, which Johnson called the latest in a series of red flags, reports NBC News. During the meeting, the student became concerned about missing class and asked for his homework and backpack, which had been left in a classroom, Johnson said.

In a deposition, Hopkins testified that he retrieved the backpack from a teacher and made a comment on how heavy it was, per WDIV. Back in the meeting, he gave the bag to Ejak, who handed it to Ethan. "Neither one of them, according to their testimony, even thought for a second to ask ... 'Hey dude, show us what's in there,'" Johnson said. He said Ethan returned to class around 11am and opened fire two hours later. Johnson said school officials had overlooked other obvious warning signs "from literally the beginning of school," per WJBK. On Sept. 8, a Spanish teacher asked Hopkins to speak with Ethan after he submitted an autobiographical poem stating he felt "terrible and that his family is a mistake."

He never did as the teacher changed her mind, believing Ethan wasn't commenting on his own life, Johnson said. But the same teacher requested that Hopkins speak with Ethan again on Nov. 10. "Hopkins did virtually nothing," Johnson said. Finally on Nov. 29, the day before the shooting, an English teacher informed Ejak that Ethan had been looking at ammunition on his phone during class. She also shared a drawing Ethan had submitted in August but she'd apparently only examined that day. It showed Ethan holding a gun, though the gun had been erased, next to what looked like a magazine with a bullet at the top, Johnson said, per WJBK. Hopkins, Ejak, and others saw no issue with it, according to Johnson.

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Though other teachers reported that Ethan was watching videos of "a guy gunning down people" and drawing a person with bullet holes, he was allowed to return to class following the Nov. 30 meeting with his parents, who were told to get help for him within 48 hours. Had school officials investigated, they would've learned that in the week before, Ethan had shown a bullet to a student and told them to heed his advice should he ever tell them to stay home from school, Johnson said. "To me, this is beyond neglect, it's unforgivable," Jill Soave, mother of deceased victim Justin Shilling, tells WDIV. "These children should be with us here today." Lawyers for the school deny any claim of negligence. They maintain Ethan alone is responsible. He has pleaded not guilty. (More school shooting stories.)

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