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Michigan's attorney general wants to investigate the Oxford school shooting

Mourners grieve at Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., on Wednesday, the day after a gunman opened fire at the school, killing four students and wounding seven other people.
Paul Sancya
Mourners grieve at Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., on Wednesday, the day after a gunman opened fire at the school, killing four students and wounding seven other people.

The Michigan attorney general has offered to investigate the events leading up to the shooting last week that took the lives of four high school students.

"We have reached out to the attorney for the Oxford Community School District and have offered the services of the Michigan [Department] of Attorney General to conduct a full and comprehensive review" of the shooting "and the events leading up to it," Attorney General Dana Nessel said Sunday morning on Twitter.

"Our attorneys and special agents are uniquely qualified to perform an investigation of this magnitude and are prepared to perform an extensive investigation and inquiry to answer the many questions the community has regarding this tragedy," she added.

In a letter to the school district on Saturday, Superintendent Tim Throne said that he had requested a third-party investigation. Nessel told The Detroit News that her office would be the "perfect agency" to investigate the shooting.

"I didn't want to see the school district bring in a private law firm ... where they are the client," Nessel said. "I've seen it time and time again, they're not fully independent investigations when that occurs."

"Often times, they're there to represent their client, and the client is the school district," Nessel added.

Nessel explained that the state attorney general's office is in the best position to determine not just whether criminal laws were broken, but also whether there were any civil violations. "We want to answer all the questions the parents have about this," Nessel told the Detroit Free Press.

Nessel said she had emailed the school district's attorney on Saturday with the same offer, but hadn't yet heard back as of Sunday afternoon. NPR reached out to the school district for comment Sunday evening, but did not receive an immediate response.

"We're not there to protect or prosecute anyone," Nessel told the Detroit NBC affiliate. "We're just there to find out what the truth is."

The parents of the suspected shooter, Ethan Crumbley, have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. School officials had notified Jennifer and James Crumbley about multiple concerning incidents involving their son that preceded the shooting. The morning of the shooting, a teacher found a note on Crumbley's desk that had a drawing of a semi-automatic handgun and the words, "the thoughts won't stop," "help me," and "blood everywhere," according to the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office. Another drawing showed a person who appeared to be bleeding from gunshot wounds.

After the teacher found those drawings, Crumbley was sent to the guidance counselor's office, where he said they were part of a video game he was designing. "At no time did counselors believe the student might harm others based on his behavior, responses and demeanor, which appeared calm," Throne wrote in his letter to the school community.

In that letter, Throne said he had asked for a third-party investigation into "all of the events of the past week because our community and our families deserve a full, transparent accounting of what occurred."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Matthew S. Schwartz is a reporter with NPR's news desk. Before coming to NPR, Schwartz worked as a reporter for Washington, DC, member station WAMU, where he won the national Edward R. Murrow award for feature reporting in large market radio. Previously, Schwartz worked as a technology reporter covering the intricacies of Internet regulation. In a past life, Schwartz was a Washington telecom lawyer. He got his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and his B.A. from the University of Michigan ("Go Blue!").