Severed Deer Head on Campus, Rumors of Violence Preceded Michigan School Shooting

On the morning of Nov. 30, Robin Redding’s son Treshan, a senior at Oxford High School in Michigan, asked if he could stay home from school that day. Usually, Treshan goes to school with his cousins, but that morning, they weren’t answering their phones. “He felt that was kind of weird,” Redding says. “He felt a little different, a little off, like something is wrong.” In recent weeks, the school had put out two notices responding to rumors on social media about a possible threat to campus, and, Treshan says, people were joking about it in the halls.

It turned out his cousins had just overslept, but Treshan stayed home on Tuesday anyway, completing his classes online instead of going in person. That day, the Oakland County Sheriff says, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley walked out of a bathroom and began firing at students in the hallway. Four students were killed, and six others were wounded, before deputies disarmed the sophomore. Crumbley, who reportedly used a Sig Sauer handgun purchased by his father on Black Friday, four days before the shooting, has been charged with terrorism and four counts of first-degree murder. 

The day of the shooting, Sheriff Michael Bouchard stressed that his office was not aware of any credible threats to the school prior to the incident itself. “There is all kinds of stuff on social media; please don’t believe everything you hear on social media,” Bouchard said. He added, “We’re also hearing that there were rumors that someone had said something or knew something. None of that came to us until today.” 

At a press conference on Wednesday, Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said that her office had reviewed “a mountain of digital evidence,” including videotape and social media posts that indicated the shooting was planned well in advance. After reviewing the evidence, McDonald said, “It isn’t even a close call. It was absolutely premeditated.” She added that her office is considering charges against Crumbley’s parents. (The Crumbleys, who have reportedly retained a lawyer, could not be reached for comment.)

Treshan, for his part, says that on Tuesday he showed police a screenshot of a threatening Snapchat message from an unknown sender that circulated among students at Oxford High School the day of the shooting. Treshan says he received a screenshot of the message after the shooting, when he was standing in a McDonald’s parking lot with other students and families from the school, waiting for more information from local police. He had gone to the area near the school after he heard about the shooting, and says that a number of other students said they received it that day, too. “Everybody screenshotted it, and then, my brother, he posted it like, ‘What the heck is this?’ So I screenshotted it,” Treshan said. “I was probably a couple of feet away from the detectives and I was like, I’m just going to go show them because they probably need this for like evidence or something.” (The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment about the message in question, and at a press conference on Wednesday, the county prosecutor would not comment on which social media posts allegedly suggested Crumbley had planned the attack.)

According to Treshan, the message was passed around after administrators at the school issued two separate statements seeking to reassure parents that there was no threat to campus safety in the weeks that preceded the shooting.

On Nov. 4th — three weeks before the shooting — Oxford HS principal Steve Wolf posted a message on the school’s website, intended to “clarify some of the rumors that have started this morning.” In the note, Wolf described the scene that greeted students and teachers when they arrived at school that morning: a severed deer’s head in a school courtyard and messages scrawled in red acrylic paint on the pool deck and the school’s windows. In the statement, Wolf took pains to emphasize that there was “no threat” to campus safety, but that the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office had nonetheless been contacted to open an investigation. 

One week later, a second note appeared on the school’s website. “We are aware of the numerous rumors that have been circulating throughout our building this week,” read the statement, signed by OHS administration. “Please know that we have reviewed every concern shared with us and investigated all information provided. Some rumors have evolved from an incident last week, while others do not appear to have any connection. Student interpretations of social media posts and false information have exacerbated the overall concern.”

The administrators went on to say that there was still “no threat” to the building or the school’s students, adding that “OHS has numerous highly-trained professionals,” including social workers, counselors and “two highly-trained security guards and an Oakland County Resource Officer” working to keep the school safe. (At press time, no one from the school had responded to an inquiry from Rolling Stone.)

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