Nessel offers to lead an investigation into the Oxford school shooting by AG

 Nessel offers to lead an investigation into the Oxford school shooting by AG

Michigan A-G Nessel says Oxford Schools turns down offer to conduct investigation. (Getty Image)

After the district’s superintendent requested a third-party investigation over the weekend, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Sunday she is willing to review the Tuesday shooting at Oxford High School that killed four students and injured seven others.

Nessel stated that her department was the “perfect agency” to investigate the shooting and offered her services to the Oxford Community School District via email on Saturday after Superintendent Tim Throne requested a third-party review of the incident and the events leading up to it.

“I didn’t want to see the school district bring in a private law firm … where they are the client,” Nessel told The Detroit News. “I’ve seen it time and time again. They’re not fully independent investigations when that occurs.

“They’re internal investigations, and they don’t necessarily answer questions for the community, because oftentimes, they’re there to represent their client and their client is the school district.”

As of Sunday afternoon, Nessel had not received a response from the district. The Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office did not respond immediately to a request for comment, but Nessel said she had spoken with Prosecutor Karen McDonald about a possible review as recently as Sunday morning. Both McDonald and Nessel are Democrats.

Ethan Crumbley, 15, accused of shooting, is being held without bond in the Oakland County Jail 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.

Crumbley was charged as an adult and might face life in prison. Jennifer and James Crumbley, Crumbley’s parents, were apprehended early Saturday after escaping police. The parents have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter and are being held on a $1 million bond.

Throne wrote a letter on Saturday to “Wildcat Nation,” saying an investigation was needed “because our community and our families deserve a full, transparent accounting of what occurred.”

“Many of our parents have understandably been asking for the school’s version of events leading up to the shooting. It’s critically important to the victims, our staff, and our entire community that a full and transparent accounting be made,” Throne’s letter said.

“To that end, I’ve asked for a third-party investigation be conducted so we leave no stone unturned, including any and all interaction the student had with staff and students.”

Throne also stated that the district’s safety practices and procedures would be evaluated by an independent security consultant.

Nessel: AG can conduct his or her own review

The department has statewide jurisdiction and does not require the district’s voluntary participation to conduct a review, according to the attorney general, though its participation would result in a “much more meaningful” investigation.

“Obviously, we would much prefer to have the cooperation of the school district, and the school district is saying they want to find out what happened here as well,” Nessel said. “They want to answer all of the questions that the members have and parents have, and we’re here to help answer those questions.”

According to Nessel, an investigation done by the Attorney General’s Office could determine criminal intent as well as civil liability. Only criminal activity is investigated by the prosecutor’s or sheriff’s offices in Oakland County.

The investigation would not necessarily result in criminal charges, according to Nessel, but it could determine whether certain school, district, or state policies were violated.

Nessel stressed the importance of collaboration between her department and the Michigan Department of Education and the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

In the event no violations were found, “it’s up to us then to maybe work with the Legislature, to work with the school, the Department of Education, to determine whether new policies and procedures need to be put into place, or new laws need to be put into effect, to better address the set of circumstances,” Nessel said.

Neither Chris Dorn, senior analyst at Safe Havens International in Macon, Georgia, nor Lawrence Dubin, emeritus professor of law at the University of Detroit Mercy, saw any problems with Nessel leading the review. However, according to Dubin, one of the most fruitful aspects of a review may be what it reveals about whether the procedure was followed, rather than the separate criminal aspect.

“That investigation would not necessarily give rise to criminal charges, but would primarily give rise to a better understanding of what the school district should have done,” Dubin said.

“There’s sometimes a gap between finding what should have been done and whether there were any criminal acts.”

Nessel stated that she wanted to consult with parents and other students at the school after the funerals of the four students before choosing a particular course of action for an investigation.

Analyst: A key was recorded by a student

According to Safe havens analyst Dorn, it’s not unusual for a focused review of shooting incidents to determine what happened and what could have been done differently.

Investigators frequently discover facts that were misreported or misremembered during the trauma of the shooting during reviews, he said. Or, in some cases, information that was kept secret in order to protect those involved, according to Dorn.

“It can be very useful to do these types of reviews simply because they’re complex incidents with a lot of information to cover,” Dorn said.

Dorn stated that if he were conducting the review, he would want to look at the information on the suspect’s student record from previous years and schools, as well as the school’s procedures regarding threats and behavioral issues.

He also asked for more information on a meeting with Crumbley and his parents on Tuesday, just before the shooting.

Prior to the meeting, a teacher at Crumbley’s school reported being disturbed by a piece of paper she found on his desk with the words “the thoughts won’t stop, help me” as well as a drawing of a bullet and the phrase “blood everywhere.”

Officials said the teen produced the note at the meeting with his parents, but it had been scribbled over in several places in an attempt to conceal its contents.

Oxford school officials showed his parents the drawings and told them they had 48 hours to get their son into counseling. They requested that the teen be excused from school that day.

However, his parents left the school without him, and the teen was allowed to stay, according to prosecutors, with a semi-automatic gun presumably in his backpack.

On Thursday, the superintendent of the district insisted that no discipline be imposed on Crumbley in the run-up to the attack.

“There are no discipline records at the high school,” Throne said. “Yes, this student did have contact with our front office, and yes, his parents were on campus on Nov. 30. I will take any and all questions at a later time. But that’s not now.”

On Nov. 29, a teacher at the school reported that Ethan Crumbley was using his phone to look for ammunition. Jennifer Crumbley’s parents were consulted by the school, but they did not respond.

Jennifer Crumbley later allegedly texted her son about the episode: “LOL, I’m not gonna get mad at you, you have to learn to not get caught.”

School safety analyst Dorn said, “Those reports are particularly troubling, and you’ll want to know what happened internally. What really stands out is how clear the need was for immediate action.”

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