Members of law enforcement and the media attend a press conference Dec. 2 at the Oakland County Sheriff's Office in Pontiac regarding a wave of threats made that caused many schools to close Dec. 2 and 3.

Members of law enforcement and the media attend a press conference Dec. 2 at the Oakland County Sheriff's Office in Pontiac regarding a wave of threats made that caused many schools to close Dec. 2 and 3.

Photos by Brian Wells


County officials respond to school closings, threats to districts

By: Brian Wells | Metro | Published December 2, 2021 | Updated December 8, 2021 3:22pm

 Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard speaks during a press conference Thursday, Dec. 2, at the Oakland County Sheriff's Office in Pontiac.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard speaks during a press conference Thursday, Dec. 2, at the Oakland County Sheriff's Office in Pontiac.

 FBI Special Agent Tim Waters speaks about the FBI’s role investigating threats.

FBI Special Agent Tim Waters speaks about the FBI’s role investigating threats.

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OAKLAND/MACOMB COUNTIES — On Dec. 2, two days after a student opened fire at Oxford High School, killing four students and wounding several other students and a teacher, more than 60 schools were closed out of an “abundance of caution” due to threats made.

During a press conference Dec. 2, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said officials expected the influx of threats made to schools and districts.

“We anticipated a flood of false threats,” Bouchard said. “I don’t know what is in people’s minds to think, after a real tragedy, it makes sense to make threats.”

Bouchard said many of the threats come from people who either think it’s funny or think it is a way out of school. Whether a threat is credible or not, it’s a crime that will be investigated and sent to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, he said.

“If you’re making threats, we’re going to find you,” Bouchard said. “It is ridiculous you’re inflaming the fears and passion of parents, teachers and the community in the midst of a real tragedy.”

Tim Waters, a special agent with the FBI, said the bureau has about 40 people working around the clock to track threats. So far Dec. 2, 25 have been investigated, of which 13 have been fully mitigated, Waters said.

Waters encouraged people to report threats to their local law enforcement or the FBI.

“There’s a lot of people out there that are concerned, and they have every right to be,” Waters said.

Bouchard also encouraged people to report threats to law enforcement instead of circulating it on social media.

“We’d rather get way too much information than miss one kernel that could be lifesaving. We’d check out a thousand nothings to make sure we don’t miss the one (that is) real.”

Though more than 60 schools were closed, many of which were to remain closed Friday, Bouchard said he was confident that many would reopen Monday; however, that is up to the districts. The Sheriff’s Office and law enforcement officials will be working to add personnel to schools to help ensure their safety.

“All of us are going to work 24/7 to make sure those schools are safe,” Bouchard said.

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony M. Wickersham said in a press release that school shootings are “one of our biggest fears as a student, a parent, school staff and law enforcement.”

He said the incident has heightened communities’ fear and anxiety.

“During the course of the past two days, we have taken an abundance of phone calls, emails and social media posts regarding suspicious behavior associated with school threats. As of now, we have taken 28 calls for service regarding school threats, some of them related to the same incident already reported.”

Macomb County residents should call their local law enforcement agency to report threats of school violence.

“Please know that we are taking every report we receive with the highest priority,” he said. “We have had deputies and investigators working these complaints throughout the night and are still investigating them currently. At this time, we would like to dispel any rumors by stating we do not and did not have anyone in custody for any of the threat complaints we’ve received. We have had deputies respond to several homes for follow up during late hours. If you have questions on the validity of a call received from our office or a deputy at your door, please contact our non-emergency dispatch at 586-469-5502 for verification.”

He noted that several local schools have school resource officers.

“In addition to that, we have our deputies making extra patrols to ALL of the schools in our contracted areas. Please do not fear the extra uniformed personnel and vehicles, as they are there to keep you safe.

“We have great communication with our schools and train on a regular basis for these unthinkable acts, shall they occur. We are continuing to work with each of our schools at this time to ensure the safety of the building and everyone in it. If you have a question regarding the policy or practices of a specific school, we strongly suggest that you follow up with that individual school as we cannot speak on their behalf.”

He said that every complaint they receive is taken seriously, investigated thoroughly and will be handled to the fullest extent of the law.

“Please speak with your children regarding the importance of reporting threats immediately and the consequences of false reports or prank-type behavior. Even a ‘joke’ statement or social media post may end up being prosecuted. What may start as something from a dare, or a statement meant unrealistically, could turn into a Threat of Terrorism or Schools – Intentional Threat to Commit an Act of Violence Charge. The security of our schools and safety of the students and staff within is of the highest priority to us.”

Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido said in a statement that his office has zero tolerance for school threats.

“I have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to issuing terroristic threats against our schools, and if you do so you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Everyone should know that Michigan law, MCL 750.543M – False Report or Threat of Terrorism – comes with up to 20 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine. That is where we start in our office, and if you issue the threat we will charge you, prosecute you, and put you in prison upon conviction. … The education of our children in an environment where they remain safe must be the top priority of law enforcement. Any criminal activity that disrupts that, will not be tolerated in Macomb County and will be prosecuted,” he stated.

 

What happened at Oxford High School
On Tuesday, Nov. 30, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office responded to an active shooter at Oxford High School at approximately 12:55 p.m. The county received more than 100 calls to 911 during the incident, the Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post.

The Sheriff’s Office reported that it took a 15-year-old sophomore, Ethan Crumbley, into custody and recovered the weapon used in the crime.

The four students who were killed have been identified as Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Justin Shilling, 17.

Prior to the event, no information about a potential threat had been shared with the Sheriff’s Office or the school resource officer, the department said.

Crumbley is charged as an adult on one count of terrorism causing death; four counts of first-degree murder; seven counts of assault with intent to murder and 12 counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald announced charges against the student’s parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley. Each faces four counts of involuntary manslaughter, and they were in jail on bonds of $500,000, no 10%, at press time.

 

Local schools react
Schools across the state issued messages of sorrow and support to the Oxford community.

Southfield Public Schools closed in the wake of the incident, and Southfield A&T was closed again due to “excessive absenteeism/lack of staff” Dec. 7.

The district hosted a virtual “Power Hour” Dec. 2 on school safety.

Chief Elvin Barren noted during the event that in a previous, unrelated incident, police went to a student’s home, spoke to their parents and searched their room to make sure there was no access to weapons with that student, and that complaint turned out to be a false complaint.

“This is a quick example of the fact that the Southfield Police Department takes threats seriously and we do investigate them thoroughly for the safety of our schools and our community.”

Superintendent Jennifer Martin-Green noted an increased presence of law enforcement in the wake of the incident.

She warned that anyone creating or sharing threats would be investigated and prosecuted.

“Now by all means, if you see it, share it with officials that can do something about it. Don’t repost it and or pass it along to others. … Let the police department know. Let the school district know,” she said.

She cited the anonymous OK2Say tip line and the Sheriff’s Office as additional sources to report such information. Also, people should not assume a threat they see is not credible. “We never know until we properly investigate,” she said.

“To my parents on the call: Please know what your children are doing, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok Twitter, just a few of the many social media platforms,” she said. “Students have their own language on social media, and for some of us that are now more seasoned, we are trying to figure it out along the way, but the chief has a number of individuals on his team that specialize in these areas.”

A statement from Birmingham Public Schools expressed sympathy and support for Oxford families.

“It is unconscionable to imagine the pain occurring in Oxford following the active shooter situation … Our hearts are heavy with the weight of losing lives, and our prayers are with the entire community,” reads a statement from Superintendent Embekka Roberson and Board of Education President Lori Ajlouny.

“We want to share with families a reminder of how to seek help if you or your child are experiencing distress,” they said, noting the anonymous tip line OK2Say and the district’s health and wellness website, which has links to mental health resources for people of all ages.

“As a school district, we want to remind our families that we have a plan to handle emergencies at each of our schools,” they said. “In partnerships with our public safety departments, we use ALICE protocols to prepare for these emergencies and regularly practice our safety procedures with students and staff through discussions and emergency exercises.”

The district has school resource officers, school safety guards, and wellness and crisis counselors.

“While no amount of planning can guarantee that a tragedy such as this will not occur, we are committed to keeping students and staff safe while at school,” they said.

Like numerous other districts, Bloomfield Hills Schools closed temporarily in the wake of the incident.

“BHS is continuing to pause in-person and virtual learning to provide our local law enforcement with the time needed to thoroughly investigate all threats,” the district posted on Facebook last week.

District officials also noted the OK2Say program. “Tips are confidential.  Download the free app or text 652729,” they said.

Superintendent Patrick Watson said in a statement that their “hearts are broken for the families, staff, and students” of Oxford.

“With this tragedy happening so close to home, we understand that students, staff, and families within our Bloomfield Hills Schools community have been impacted. Counselors, social workers, and student supports will be available this week along with increased police presence at all of our schools. … We will do everything in our control to maintain safety in our schools. Please reach out to your school administrators, counselors, or social workers if you feel your child may need additional support,” he said. The district listed mental health resources on its Facebook page.


Moving forward
Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter spoke briefly at the press conference in Pontiac, joining Bouchard in encouraging parents, students and community members to seek help if they’re struggling.

“We’re very concerned about the mental health of our teachers, our students, our parents and our community,” Coulter said.

Resources for anyone struggling or in crisis can be found online at www.oakgov.com. The county has a 24-hour crisis helpline, which can be reached by calling (800) 231-1127. The Michigan Crisis and Access Line can also be reached at (844) 446-4225.

Coulter also said he’s been working with state officials to roll out additional resources.

Genisys Credit Union in Oxford announced Dec. 1 that it would be accepting donations to assist with families affected by the shooting. Any of the credit union’s 28 branches will accept donations to Oxford Strong. To locate a branch, visit www.genisyscu.org/locations.

“What we need to do is come together, not get more torn apart,” Bouchard said.

Call Staff Writer Brian Wells at (586) 498-1081 or (248) 291-7637, or email bwells@candgnews.com.

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