Detroit-based attorney Ven Johnson told reporters that Crumbley raised so many red flags his intentions should have been obvious.
Four families have filed a lawsuit against Oxford Community Schools, accusing education officials of ignoring a student’s troubling behavior in the lead-up to a mass shooting.
According to MLive.com, the lawsuit was filed by Detroit-based attorney Ven Johnson on behalf of four victims and their families. The complaint observes that suspected shooter Ethan Crumbley all but told education officials that he was planning an attack on Oxford High School. However, teachers, counselors, and the district superintendent allowed Crumbley to continue attending classes, going so far as to tell parents and students they did not have to worry about threats Crumbley posted on social media.
In a press conference announcing the new lawsuit, Johnson showed media blown-up copies of some Crumbley’s more disturbing posts, announcements, and scribblings.
“This is the gun I’m going to use,” Crumbley wrote on social media just two weeks before the shooting.
Johnson also showed reporters images of test papers on which 15-year-old Crumbley had written words and phrases such as “help me,” “blood everywhere,” and “the thoughts won’t stop,” accompanied by doodles of guns, bullets, and an apparently dead or wounded person.
In his lawsuit, Johnson says the district should be liable: despite Crumbley raising many red flags, nobody intervened or tried to help him.
The lawsuit names several defendants, including:
- Crumbley’s parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley
- Oxford High School Dean of Students Nicholas Ejak
- Oxford High School guidance counselors Pam Parker Fine and Shawn Hopkins
- Three unidentified teachers
Johnson clarified that Oxford was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit because of immunity statutes protecting government entities from civil litigation in many 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,” Johnson said, “I can’t even sue Oxford as an entity. I want to. They deserve it. But I can’t under Michigan law.”
The lawsuit, adds MLive.com, recounts many of the same details revealed during Crumbley’s criminal court proceedings.
“For somebody who, for the entire year of 2021, was on his computer, on his cell phone that his parents gave him, shooting videos of himself hurting animals, killing animals […] laughing about it, posting it […] We’ve all seen the stories,” Johnson said. “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 further observed that Crumbley was caught looking up ammunition sales and prices on his phone during school, and questioned who that did not raise more red flags.
“Why would a kid in the middle of a school day look at ammunition on his phone?” Johnson asked.
While a school employee called Crumbley’s mother to discuss the ammunition incident, she never returned the call.
“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,” he said. “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?” Johnson asked. “Sent him back to class.”
“That’s a violation of the Child Protective Act,” he added.
“Other than simply saying, ‘By the way, I’ve got a gun in the backpack that’s in my room, I’m going to shoot up the school today,’” Johnson said, “What else possibly could anyone want to know in terms of warning?”