By: Mark Diaz
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Galveston Criminal Defense Attorney Discusses Michigan School Shooting Evidence
Discussing The Fallout of the Oxford High School Shooter Tragedy
Several people have asked me what I thought about that case in Michigan, the school shooting incident, where the shooter’s parents have now been arrested, in connection with his crimes. I guess part of that is, do we think, as defense attorneys, that this (someone being held responsible for the criminal acts of another) could start to become a trend.
When I first heard about it, as a defense attorney, my gut reaction was, it’s not okay. I mean, holding someone responsible for the criminal acts of another just doesn’t sit right with me on the surface level. In this case, however, we start to learn so much more about the events, and the family situation leading up to the actual shooting. I think you have to look at it on a case-by-case basis.
There was an initial report by the school, that a teacher had seen the boy looking up ammunition on his phone. The parents were alerted. Then, Mom texts the boy the same day and says “I’m not mad at you, you just need to learn not to get caught”. They had just purchased the gun several days before, for the boy as an early Christmas present. His mother had taken him to a shooting range that weekend.
Then a teacher observes a drawing that he made, which was alarming enough that she took a picture of it to alert school officials. It said ominous things on it, like “my life means nothing, I need help”, or “I can’t make it stop, please help me” and then a picture of a gun and a bullet, blood everywhere. So, this prompted a call to the parents to come into the school where they have some type of discussion.
The parents are told to get the boy counseling. The decision is made, I guess by the parents and the school, that he can stay in school, and they do not need to take him home. An explanation for that on the school’s behalf was that they didn’t want to send the boy to an empty home. Then of course, like an hour after that, he starts shooting up the school, Mom and Dad go on the run. Or so it looked like, their attorneys say they didn’t go on the run. They were just hiding out for their safety but did claim to turn themselves in.
Known Mental Issues
I think that across the country, it is possible that we will see more of this, depending upon the individual circumstances and what they find out about any given case. The prosecution in Michigan has made all sorts of allegations about the family and the boy being depressed, the parents knowing that he was depressed, and something about his closest and only friend moving away, and that further drove him into depression. There have been some allegations that he’s done inhumane things to animals. I think there’s an allegation that he had a dead bird’s head in a jar in his room. Just weird things like that.
I don’t think we’ve seen this type of prosecution in the country before and after a mass shooting. At the same time, I don’t know that they were able to gather that much evidence that the parents knew or should have known that something was wrong. It’s a hard call for me to make. I take my son hunting every year. He’s completed the hunter safety course. So that he can have a hunting license. That’s on the rifle side, on the pistol side, when I introduced him to pistol shooting, I had him trained one on one, with a competition shooter first in safety, and then proper handling and how to fire the weapon.
Should Parents Be Held Responsible For Actions Of Underage Child?
Buying a gun, taking a kid to a gun range one weekend, and being taken by a mom who arguably doesn’t have any shooting experience that we’re aware of, and kind of turning that kid loose with a firearm is kind of reckless. So, as I said, when I first heard about it, it just felt wrong, you know, why are we going to hold parents responsible for the actions of a child.
Then when we find out that there were so many red flags that the parents could have known about and intervened, gotten the kid help, or simply not made the gun accessible to him. I think we may see charges like this in the future, across the country. Again, depending upon the facts and circumstances of each individual case, and what law enforcement can put together by way of an investigation.
If you read up on it, you’ll see that lots of people have opined on this. It’s kind of a wait-and-see kind of thing. If you read the prosecution’s words from prior press conferences and some court appearances, she admits that it’s new ground, this is not normal. In the state’s eyes, the red flags are so egregious, that they just can’t go unnoticed.
So I think that if parents continue to turn a blind eye to what their children are going through, and then bad things happen, we could see more types of prosecution like this. There is a crime in Texas, of allowing a child or minor access to a firearm, but this prosecutor is going for much more. She wants the parents held for manslaughter for the people that died. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.
As an aside, it looks like both mom and dad hired attorneys for themselves but did not hire an attorney for their son. It’s reported that mom texted a friend and said something to the effect of “my son’s fate is sealed now I got to protect myself”. So, I guess that was the justification for getting herself an attorney and not her son.
Hopefully, the defense will do intense psychological evaluations on the boy and figure out what led to this, and how did it come to this? As well as figure out how we learn from this. Is there anything we can do that would help us prevent these types of things from happening in the future? It’s just becoming too common. As you all know, we’ve had it happen here in Galveston County, Santa Fe.
Looking back, I don’t know, and there may have been an investigation into what the parents knew or should have known, that case is still ongoing so we will see. There’s not much public information for us to know, but I do think that, especially if this prosecutor in Michigan has success, you’ll see an increase in this type of prosecution across the country.
Contact Galveston Homicide Attorney Mark Diaz
If you have been accused or arrested for manslaughter or homicide contact Galveston County homicide attorney Mark Diaz at (409) 515-6170.