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Lawsuit says administrators knew Michigan school shooting suspect was dangerous

The complaint accuses the defendants of “gross negligence” and alleges that their actions caused “serious and permanent physical and emotional trauma.”
Image: Shooting At Oxford High School In Michigan Leaves 4 Students Dead
A memorial outside Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., on Dec. 3.Scott Olson / Getty Images

A lawsuit against the Oxford Community School District, the principal of Oxford High School and several other people alleges that administrators knew Ethan Crumbley was dangerous before he is alleged to have shot and killed four people and wounded seven others.

The federal lawsuit was filed in early December but was amended last week to include 11 new counts. The suit seeks $100 million in damages.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for Eastern Michigan, accuses the defendants of “gross negligence" and alleges that their actions caused "serious and permanent physical and emotional trauma."

Oxford High School students felt "less safe" because of the defendants' actions, the lawsuit says.

"The horror of November 30, 2021 was entirely preventable," it says.

Named as defendants are the district, Superintendent Timothy Throne, Oxford High School Principal Steven Wolf and several unidentified counselors, staff members and teachers.

The lawsuit also names Ryan Moore, the dean of students, who a lawyer representing the school and its employees said left the high school more than a year ago, well before the shooting. The lawyer is trying to get Moore dismissed from the case.

"Our interest and priority is to recover from this tragedy ... which is more important than ... pursuing this lawsuit at this time," the lawyer, Timothy Mullins, said Wednesday.

The lawsuit alleges that on Nov. 11, about two weeks before the shooting, Crumbley took a severed bird head in a Mason jar "containing a yellow liquid" to school. It says he is alleged to have left the jar in the boys' bathroom.

When students found it, they reported it to school administrators, according to the lawsuit. In response, the school sent an email to parents the next day saying, in part, that there was "no threat to our building nor our students," the suit claims.

The complaint further alleges that the school was aware of concerns parents had raised over Crumbley's social media posts that depicted "violent tendencies and ideations" but that administrators told parents and students that they were safe.

In a post the day before the shooting on Nov. 30, Crumbley is alleged to have written: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds. See you tomorrow Oxford.”

Despite the concerns raised by parents and students, administrators continued to let Crumbley go to school, the suit says.

“This action assisted in the perpetuation of his plans to effectuate and provided the clearance for Ethan Crumbley to commit, a violent slaughter of classmates and increased the risk that Plaintiffs’ Minors would be exposed to Ethan Crumbley’s acts of violence,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit accuses Throne of discouraging “students and parents from reporting, sharing, or otherwise discussing” Crumbley’s social media posts.

The lawsuit also says Wolf “directed the teachers and counselors to tell students to stop reporting, sharing, or otherwise discussing the threatening social media posts, and violent animal slaughter that was occurring at Oxford High School.”

The shooting happened just before 1 p.m. after Crumbley left a bathroom, investigators have said. He is charged as an adult with murder and other crimes. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Crumbley's parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, were also charged with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter. They are accused of making a gun accessible to their son and refusing to take him home after a meeting before the shooting. They have also pleaded not guilty.