Why Has Michigan School Shooter Suspect Been Charged With Terrorism?

© REUTERS / SETH HERALDStudents pay their respects at a memorial at Oxford High School a day after the year's deadliest U.S. school shooting which killed and injured several people, in Oxford, Michigan, U.S. December 1, 2021
Students pay their respects at a memorial at Oxford High School a day after the year's deadliest U.S. school shooting which killed and injured several people, in Oxford, Michigan, U.S. December 1, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.12.2021
Oxford, Michigan faced the deadliest school shooting since 2018 on Tuesday after a 15-year-old sophomore armed with a handgun opened fire in Oxford High School. The incident claimed four lives and left seven people injured.
The teenage perpetrator behind Tuesday's shooting in Oxford High School, who was identified as Ethan Crumbley, has been charged with one particular count that's not typical for a school shooting – terrorism.
Despite his young age, the shooter is to be tried as an adult. Besides the terrorism charges, he faces four first-degree murder counts, seven counts of assault with intent to murder, and 12 firearm possession counts. Should he be convicted on his counts, the teenager faces a life behind bars.
But why exactly has he been charged with terrorism causing death – an accusation dubbed even by Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald as "not a usual" one?

Michigan Laws on Terrorism

According to the prosecutors, the terrorism count was rolled out to address "all the children who ran screaming" and were "hiding under desks," who, despite not being shot, are still "victimised" by what happened.

"What about all the children at home right now, who can’t eat and can’t sleep and can’t imagine a world where they could ever step foot back in that school?" McDonald continued. "Those are victims, too, and so are their families and so is the community. The charge of terrorism reflects that.”

The Wolverine state offers a broader definition of terrorism when it comes to anti-terrorism laws, viewing it as a "willful and deliberate act" that complies with the following three conditions:
An act that would be a violent felony under the laws of this state, whether or not committed in this state;
An act that the person knows or has reason to know is dangerous to human life;
An act that is intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or influence or affect the conduct of government or a unit of government through intimidation or coercion.
It is the third clause that is invoked in the case of the Oxford High School shooting, with the criminal complaint filed against the shooter saying that he committed his act against the Oxford High School community.
The teenager pled not guilty to the counts of terrorism and murder.

Were School Shooters Charged With Terrorism Before?

Yes, but such occasions are still rare. Typically, such charges come after people make bomb threats. However, there are some cases of those involved in school violence facing terrorism charges.
One of such incidents took place in 2018: a Florida student who shot through a door, wounding another student, was accused of terrorism along with murder. He pleaded no contest to the charges.
Even earlier, in 2005, a Michigan student was accused of plotting a massacre at Macomb County high school. He was convicted, marking one of the first cases when anti-terrorism laws were applied to threats of school violence.
Parents walk away with their kids from the Meijer's parking lot where many students gathered following an active shooter situation at Oxford High School in Oxford, Michigan, U.S. November 30, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.12.2021
US School Shootings on the Rise After Pandemic-Caused Hiatus

What to Expect From Oxford High School Case Now?

Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard voiced his "100 percent" support for the terrorism charges that the teen shooter is facing.
“If you weren't hit by a bullet, it doesn't mean you weren't terrorized that day and won't have nightmares about (it) the rest of your life — whether you're a parent, a teacher or a student in that class,” he said.
Prosecutor McDonald appears to share the sentiment.

"There is no playbook about how to prosecute a school shooting and candidly, I wish I'd never even had – it didn't occur so I wouldn't have to consider it, but when we sat down, I wanted to make sure all of the victims were represented in the charges that we filed against this individual," McDonald told CNN. "If that's not terrorism, I don't know what is."

The 15-year-old may not be the only one to be held accountable, as reports the prosecutors are mulling charging his parents. Aside from the suggestion that the teenager used a handgun that had been bought by his father, reports emerged saying that James and Jennifer Crumbley, the shooter's parents, had a meeting with the school administration just hours before the fatal shooting.
The reported meeting appeared to have been related to the teen's behaviour in the classroom, and it is now a part of the investigation.
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