3 students killed, 8 others wounded in Michigan high school shooting

A 15-year-old student opened fire at his Michigan high school about 50 kilometres north of Detroit Tuesday, killing three students aged 14 to 17, and wounding eight others, including a teacher.

Gun used was recently purchased by 15-year-old suspect's father, police say

A 15-year-old sophomore opened fire at his Michigan high school on Tuesday, killing three students and wounding eight other people, including a teacher, authorities said.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said late Tuesday that investigators were still trying to determine a motive for the shooting at Oxford High School in Oxford Township, a community of about 22,000 people roughly 48 kilometres north of Detroit.

"The person's got the most insight is not talking," Bouchard said at a news conference.

The suspect's father bought the 9mm Sig Sauer used in the shooting on Friday, Bouchard said, adding that he did not know why the man bought the gun. Bouchard said the suspect had practised shooting with the gun and posted pictures of it and the target.

Bouchard said several students injured in the shooting remain in critical condition, including a 14-year old on a ventilator.

Emergency personnel attend the scene of a shooting at Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., on Tuesday. Police arrested a 15-year-old suspected of killing three students and wounding eight other people, including a teacher. (Todd McInturf/The Detroit News/The Associated Press)

Undersheriff Mike McCabe said earlier that authorities were aware of allegations circulating on social media that there had been threats of a shooting at the roughly 1,700-student school before Tuesday's attack, but he cautioned against believing that narrative until investigators can look into it.

He also downplayed the significance of an incident in early November when a deer head was thrown off the school roof, which he said was "absolutely unrelated" to the shooting. The vandalism prompted school administrators to post two letters to parents on the school's website this month, saying they were responding to rumours of a threat against the school but had found none.

Authorities didn't immediately release the suspect's name, but McCabe said deputies arrested him within minutes of arriving at the school in response to a flood of 911 calls about the attack, which happened shortly before 1 p.m. ET. He said the deputies also recovered the semi-automatic handgun and several magazines used to store ammunition used in the attack.

"He fired multiple shots," McCabe said of the suspect. "Somewhere in the area of 15 to 20."

The three students who were killed were 16-year-old Tate Myre, 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana, and 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin. Bouchard said Myre died in a patrol car as a deputy tried to get him to a hospital.

McCabe said the suspect's parents visited their son where he's being held and advised him not to talk to investigators, as is his right. Police must seek permission from a juvenile suspect's parents or guardian to speak with them, he added.

'Every parent's worst nightmare'

McCabe said he wasn't aware of any prior run-ins the suspect had with law enforcement or if he had any disciplinary history at school.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald issued a statement Tuesday evening saying her office expects to issue charges quickly and that an update would be given Wednesday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also spoke at the news conference, calling the shooting "every parent's worst nightmare," while choking up.

U.S. President Joe Biden, before delivering remarks at a community college in Rosemount, Minn., said his "heart goes out to the families enduring the unimaginable grief of losing a loved one."

The school was placed on lockdown after the attack, with some children sheltering in locked classrooms while officers searched the premises. Students were later taken to a nearby grocery store to be picked up by their parents.

The school district says all of its schools will be closed the rest of the week. 

'This couldn't be just random'

Isabel Flores, a 15-year-old ninth grader, told WJBK-TV that she and other students heard gunshots and saw another student bleeding from the face. They then ran from the area through the rear of the school, said Flores.

McCabe said investigators would pore over the school's video footage and look through social media posts for any evidence of a possible motive.

One parent, Robin Redding, said her son, Treshan Bryant, is a 12th grader at the school but stayed home Tuesday. She said he had heard threats that there could be a shooting.

The school was placed on lockdown after the attack, with some children sheltering in locked classrooms while police searched the premises. Students were later taken to a nearby grocery store to be picked up by their parents. (Ryan Garza/Detroit Free Press/The Associated Press)

"This couldn't be just random," she said.

Redding didn't provide specifics about what her son had heard, but she expressed concern with school safety in general.

"Kids just, like they're just mad at each other at this school," she said.

'Time for the community to heal'

At a vigil at Lakepoint Community Church on Tuesday night, Leeann Dersa choked back tears as she hugged friends and neighbours. Dersa has lived nearly all of her 73 years in Oxford and her grandchildren attended the high school.

"Scared us all something terrible. It's awful," Dersa said of the shooting. "We've had some tragedies with the young people dying through the years, and we've all come together and all helped each other and we're still coming together with them and love them."

For Greg Hill, the day twisted his stomach in knots. His children attend the elementary school in the district, and he brought them to the vigil.

People attend a vigil for the shooting victims at LakePoint Community Church in Oxford on Tuesday. (Paul Sancya/Associated Press)

"Just glad that our children are safe and now it's time for the community to heal," Hill, 40, said.

Pastor Jesse Holt said news of the shooting flooded in to him and his wife, including texts from some of the 20 to 25 students who are among the 400-member congregation.

"Some were very scared, hiding under their desks and texting us, `We're safe, we're OK. We heard gunshots, but we're OK.' They were trying to calm us, at least that's how it felt," he said Tuesday night.

One student texted that she was hiding in a bathroom with a boy who also was seeking shelter.

After deputies arrested the shooter, the girl ran from the school and was taken in by someone living close by until her mom could pick her up, Holt said.

"That's our community," he said. "That's who we are."