OXFORD, Michigan—Three students are dead after a teenage gunman opened fire at a Michigan high school on Tuesday, sending terrified students scrambling for cover and barricading in their classrooms, according to authorities.
Eight other people were shot and injured in the horrific attack at Oxford High School in Michigan, including a teacher, Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe told reporters at a news conference.
The suspected shooter, who has not yet been publicly identified, is a 15-year-old sophomore, police said. He surrendered to a deputy detailed to the school just minutes after the shooting began, and a semi-automatic handgun was recovered, McCabe said. Later in the day, authorities identified the victims who were killed as 16-year old Tate Myre, 17-year old Madisyn Baldwin and 14-year old Hana St. Juliana.
Officers responded to reports of shots fired at the school, which is roughly 30 miles north of Detroit, around 12:55 p.m. local time. As the Tuesday rampage unfolded, teens rushed to barricade themselves in classrooms and hide behind furniture until they could be led to safety by police. Oxford High conducted an active-shooter drill just last month, according to the school’s online calendar.
Ayden Sanders, a senior at Oxford High, told The Daily Beast that students first thought it was a drill when an announcer broadcast a lockdown code over the speaker. They locked the two doors to their theater room and huddled behind a curtain in a teacher’s adjoining office.
“At first we were joking around then we heard all sorts of commotion and stuff and everyone was like, ‘Oh snap, this isn’t a drill,’" Sanders said.
Then they heard two loud bangs that sounded like someone trying to bash a door down.
“Everybody started freaking out… crying, hyperventilating,” said Sanders.
About 10 minutes later, a sheriff’s deputy came to evacuate them. As they filed out of the school, Sanders saw that the door, which led to the school’s front lobby, was actually riddled with bullet holes and the ground was covered in glass.
Robin Redding, the parent of a 12th-grader, told reporters at the scene that there had been rumblings of forthcoming trouble at the school so her son stayed home on Tuesday. “He just said that ‘Ma I don’t feel comfortable. None of the kids that we go to school with are going today,’” Redding said.
McCabe acknowledged there had been a “vandalism” incident at the school earlier this month involving graffiti and a severed deer head left inside a courtyard. But, contrary to some early speculation, he said the two were not linked and his department was “not aware of any warning signs” that might have alerted authorities to the shooter’s plan.
Ceree Morris, whose two children attend Oxford High School, said her older son was in the classroom “right next to where the shooting started.”
Morris’ other son, who is a sophomore, was not near the initial gunshots but was also in lockdown in his own classroom, she said.
“The shooter did try to get into his classroom and even shook on the door handle,” Morris told The Daily Beast. “But he knew what to do because he was trained at school.”
Morris said her son, who is a senior, called her during the incident to say that “someone shot out in the hallway and that they were going under lockdown.”
“He said ‘I want to let you know that I am safe right now’ and said he was behind a filing cabinet,” the mother added. “He was telling other kids to ‘shut the fuck up’ and hide behind the cabinets in the back of the classroom.”
“You see this stuff in other places and you never think this will happen to you—it’s surreal,” she said, describing Oxford as a “tight-knit community.”
Heather Hull’s daughter, a junior at Oxford High, was in her classroom when she heard a “ruckus outside the room, it sounded like [someone] was fighting,” Hull told The Daily Beast.
“Then all of sudden, they heard a loud bang,” Hull continued. “She couldn’t tell what it was because she’s never heard a gun before. She went running for the door and locked the safety lock, and then they all went and hid and then they just heard more gunshots. Somebody tried to open the door, and then they were gone. They made an announcement a few minutes later saying they were under lockdown. Thank god she’s safe.”
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Gina Sesi, who works at a local chiropractic clinic, was startled to see “multiple police cars and sheriffs that were flying past” as she left her office.
Sesi described the moment as “very chaotic,” and said, “Obviously, there was something big going on. Even when I was 10 miles away from the school, [emergency vehicles] were still passing me.”
By Tuesday evening, a grocery store parking lot in a nearby shopping center in Oxford Charter Township had been transformed into a makeshift family reunification center. Helicopters flew overhead in the grey sky and an American flag whipped in the wind. Lines of news cameras stood on tripods across the street and police patrol cars with lights flashing blocked the entrances as families picked up their children after the deadly shooting.
Several ambulances pulled in and out of the parking lot. Cops sealed off several roads leading up to the school where the shooting had taken place.
“This is every parent’s worst nightmare,” Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said through tears. “This is a uniquely American problem that we need to address.”
In a neighborhood around the corner from Oxford High on Tuesday afternoon, Angela—a local mother who spoke under the condition her last name not be used—and her 11-year-old daughter Mariah were trying to make sense of what had just happened.
Angela said she heard loud ambulances roaring by for about 20 minutes and wondered what was wrong—then received an email from her children’s school district alerting parents to an “active emergency” occurring at Oxford High.
Next she started getting calls from parents about an active shooter.
“It was terrifying,” the mother said from her car in a McDonald’s parking lot where her daughter and son could get a glimpse of Whitmer as she addressed the press alongside local officials.
Nearby, 11-year-old Mariah had seen her middle-school classroom go into lockdown. At first, the kids in the classroom weren’t sure what was going on, but then one of the students started getting text updates from a sibling inside the high school, she said.
She finally got out of lockdown at 2:30 at the end of the school day.
“We were afraid that they were going to come to, like, our school,” the 11-year-old said from the passenger side of her mother’s vehicle.
Since school got out, Mariah has been scrolling through TikTok and snapchat feeds where students have posted grim videos of the scene inside Oxford High School. Her mother struggled to grapple with the carnage in their midst.
“You see it on the news, but you never really think it will happen so close to home,” she told The Daily Beast. “I was lucky my kid came home today, but there's a lot of families that their kids aren't going to be coming home tonight, and that's heartbreaking."
Hours after the shooting, Sanders, the student who survived the disaster, still hadn’t fully processed what he saw at school Tuesday.
“It’s the craziest things that’s ever happened at Oxford, ever,” he said. “Nothing like this has ever happened.”
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement that her office has offered assistance to local law enforcement as the investigation continues.
“We must act to properly address gun violence in our schools and the ongoing threat of another unconscionable tragedy if we continue to only offer thoughts and prayers,” said Nessel. “Our kids deserve better.”