Item – November closed with the news of a terrible tragedy in Michigan, as 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley used a Sig Sauer 9mm handgun to kill four of his schoolmates
This incident is remarkable for the role that social media and digital evidence should have played in its prevention, and the importance both will play in the subsequent investigation and trial of not only Crumbley but his parents as well.
Litigation is also likely against the school district and various school officials
Black Friday present for dad or kid?
Stoking (or allowing unchecked) fetishism
- Instagram Posts
- Lots of Instagram images attributed to Ethan Crumbley (some probably spurious)
- Generally agreed that 4 days before shooting, he posted a photo of a gun on Instagram with the caption “Just got my new beauty today SIG SAUER 9mm. Ask any questions I will answer.”
- Rumors Circulating Among Students (Some Stayed Home)
- Some number of students told their parents that they did not want to be in school because “something was going down.”
- This will require more investigation.
- How did they know?
- Where did they see the information or threats?
- What did they hear?
- Who posted it?
- In-School Searches for Ammunition
- Crumbley told the teacher that he and his family like to visit shooting ranges and that was why he was looking at ammunition. The parents confirmed that shooting is a hobby.
- Threatening drawing
- Crumbley told his teacher and counselors that he made the drawing for a video game he was designing.
- Earlier Warnings
- On two separate occasions in early November, the school sent out warnings regarding threats of violence. Not clear if one or both were related in any way to Crumbley but people were on edge.
- School-Parent Conference
- The school met with all of the Crumbleys following the discovery of the teen’s drawing.
- Parents refused to take Ethan home.
- Failure to Search
- Despite having clear reasonable cause, the school did not search Ethan’s backpack or locker.
- Failure to Separate or Isolate
- A good argument can be made that there was sufficient evidence to isolate or suspend Ethan until a proper psych evaluation could be conducted
Digital Documentation of Tragedy
- Surveillance Videos
- Investigators have been able to document Ethan’s actions using school video surveillance footage.
- Witness Videos and Text Messages
- Increasingly, students in these situations are documenting what takes place using their mobile devices
- One chilling video shows students responding to a knock at the door. They believed that it was Ethan, although local law enforcement says it was one of their officers.
- Investigators have already discovered videos recorded on Ethan’s phone the night before the killings in which he talks about shooting students
- Social Media
- Investigators have promised a “deep dive” into Ethan’s social media to look for planning, possible motives, etc.
- “Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said the shooting was “not just an impulsive act.” She said investigators had uncovered a “mountain” of evidence showing that the attack was premeditated.”
- Will the school or district employees be sued?
- Almost certainly.
- Michigan law may provide immunity to the school district if the school officials were “engaged in a governmental function”
- Individuals have immunity unless their actions constituted “gross negligence”
- Will they be found liable?
- That’s a tougher question.
- Were all applicable procedures followed?
- If yes, then they made a judgment call that had a terrible outcome. That’s not the same as being “grossly negligent.”
Just two months ago, the Broward County school district settled 52 lawsuits in the Parkland shooting for a total of $25 million
Policy and Procedure Changes
“The challenge for administrators is properly identifying the one student who might act violently amid far more who display warning signs but never do any harm.”
School officials warn that pandemic stress and time away from school “has led to a surge in behavior problems and violence in schools, including a huge spike in gun incidents.”
Fake Social Media Accounts
Copycat Threats against Schools
– #2021–12–05 After Michigan school shooting, experts question what could have prevented it
– #2021–12–04 In the Michigan Shooting, What Is the School’s Responsibility?
– #2021–12–02 Oxford High School shooting: Everything we know about deadly Michigan attack and suspect Ethan Crumbley
– #2021–12–01 Michigan suspect recorded video about killing students night before shooting, officials say
– #2021–11–30 4 dead, 7 injured in Oxford High School shooting; suspect is 15-year-old student
– #2021–10–20 Parkland victims’ families reach $25 million settlement with school district 3 years after massacre
– [n.d.] Principal Recovery Network, a project of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, which helps support education leaders who face these tragedies.
– [n.d.] Safe Havens International