Three students have been killed and eight wounded on Tuesday by a 15-year-old boy who opened fire in a high school in the US state of Michigan before he was arrested.
The boy used a semi-automatic pistol his father had purchased a few days prior to the incident according to authorities.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard shared at a news briefing hours after the rampage at Oxford High School that investigators were unable to explain what might have triggered “an unspeakable and unforgivable” act of violence.
Bouchard said that after the suspect’s parents retained a lawyer and denied authorities permission to interview their son, the suspect also declined to speak with the investigators.
The sheriff said to the reporters, “The person who’s got the most insight on motive is not talking”.
Bouchard added that he was not aware of any previous run-ins with law enforcement by the suspect, who is a high school sophomore, saying that there was “nothing to suggest that there had been disciplinary issues or problems with him at school”.
As per authorities, the tragedy occurred around midday in Oxford, Michigan, around 65 km north of Detroit, as horrified students and teachers taking cover inside the school flooded the county emergency dispatch center with over 100 calls for assistance.
Bouchard acknowledged swift action by his deputies, who according to him arrived on the scene within minutes and moved straight toward the sound of gunshots, successfully preventing a much higher casualty toll.
Bouchard explained that they confronted the young suspect moving down a hallway toward them with a loaded gun, when he put his hands over his head and surrendered.
The exact sequence of events during the incident remains uncertain, but police think the boy carried the weapon into the school in a backpack, the sheriff shared.
He said, “The only information I have is that he came out of a bathroom with a weapon, and I don’t know where he went first”.
Police will eventually turn over the findings of their investigation to prosecutors, who will then decide what charges to bring. They will decide whether the suspect will be charged as an adult or a juvenile, as shared by the sheriff.
Oakland County Executive David Coulter said, currently, the 15-year-old suspect, whose name has been withheld by authorities as he is a minor, was being detained in a special cell under suicide watch at a juvenile detention center.
Amongst the three students died in the shooting spree was a 16-year-old boy who succumbed to his wounds while he was being moved to a hospital in a patrol car, and two girls, aged 14 and 17, as per authorities.
Out of the eight others injured by gunfire, seven were students, two of whom have been hospitalized with gunshot wounds to the head.
Bouchard said, at least two girls, aged 14 and 17, are critically wounded with chest wounds, one of them is placed on a ventilator.
A teacher was also treated for a shoulder wound and later discharged.
Undersheriff Michael McCabe said earlier that around 15 to 20 rounds were fired during the rampage, which lasted less than five minutes.
Bouchard added that the boy was armed with a 9-millimeter semi-automatic handgun his father had purchased on Nov 26, along with three 15-round magazines. Seven live rounds remained in the gun when the youth was arrested, the sheriff said.
The sheriff said the boy apparently “had been shooting” with the gun before Tuesday’s attack and had posted pictures of the weapon and a target he was using.
President Joe Biden said, “My heart goes out to the families enduring the unimaginable grief of losing a loved one”.
The incident is the latest in a long series of US school shootings and will likely fuel debates about gun control and mental health care, with many states allowing easy access to firearms while mental health disorders frequently go untreated.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who rushed to the scene and appeared with McCabe before the media said, “This is a uniquely American problem that we need to address”.