What To Know Today

The rarity of charges against parents of school shooting suspects. And more from Oxford. The parents of the 15-year-old suspect in the Oxford school shooting pleaded not guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter after a manhunt found them hiding in a commercial building. At the virtual arraignment, the prosecutor said charges were warranted because the parents “could have stopped” the attack, alleging that they kept an unsecured gun in the home despite concerns about their son’s behavior. Such charges are rare in a legal landscape where prosecutors have to reach a high bar to demonstrate gross negligence. “It’s really hard to show that parents have a disregard for human life, and that they could actually foresee their child doing this,” Eve Brensike Primus, a University of Michigan law professor, told The Washington Post. What legal responsibility do school officials hold? It’s a question the local prosecutor left open given that school officials flagged concerning behavior about a violent drawing the suspect allegedly made in school and his gun-related internet browsing shortly before the shooting. The Oxford Community Schools Superintendent promised an independent investigation while defending the actions of school officials, who have said the suspect had no prior disciplinary issues. Separately, the Michigan attorney general offered to conduct a “full and comprehensive” review.

ICYMI: The limits of school hardening. For our Weekly newsletter, I wrote about how Oxford High School was a prime example of the multibillion-dollar industry that arose after Columbine, promising to keep kids safe through physical security measures and training. But despite the school’s security cameras and regular lockdown drills, tragedy ensued. “The response was executed perfectly, yet four children were killed and multiple injuries occurred,” the Oakland County prosecutor noted. “We really can’t train ourselves out of this tragedy.”

Lawmakers hope to build support for child access prevention laws. Thirty states and Washington, D.C., have laws imposing criminal liability on gun owners who fail to properly secure their firearms in a house with children. Michigan is one of the states without a CAP law, and though the Oxford suspect’s parents were charged anyway, lawmakers there and elsewhere see it as a reason to expand such laws. Last year, The Trace reported on an exhaustive review of gun policies from RAND that found CAP laws were among the most effective gun statutes and helped reduce self-inflicted firearm injuries and deaths.

A Chicago pastor’s 100-day rooftop stand against gun violence. On November 20, Pastor Corey Brooks began sleeping atop a building-sized shipping container in his South Side neighborhood of Woodlawn. In 2012, Brooks undertook a similar effort on the roof of a dilapidated motel that used to be located at the same spot, across the street from his church, eventually raising $463,000 to tear down the motel that he called a hotbed for drugs and violence. Brooks hopes his current campaign, which runs through February, will help him raise money for a $35-million youth and community center he aims to build through his Project H.O.O.D organization. “The shootings in Cook County are at an all time high since the ‘90s,” Brooks told The Chicago Sun-Times. “Our neighborhood really needs a place of transformation, a place where they can go and get all the things that they need to start trying to change their life.” Brooks’s set-up includes extra sleeping tents for others to join his demonstration. 

Denver fires police officer who didn’t render aid to a teen gunshot victim who later died from his injury. Sixteen-year veteran Dewayne Rodgers failed to provide aid to the victim for more than 10 minutes after arriving at a shooting scene on September 7, 2020, according to an internal police investigation. The victim allegedly asked repeatedly for help, but neither Rodgers nor the second responding officer, David Clough, attempted to help or comfort the 18-year-old while waiting for paramedics to arrive. Rodgers was fired late last month over what the police report called a “callous lack of humanity,” while Clough resigned before the investigation was over.

Data Point

Three — the number of nationwide mass shootings in the six days since Oxford. Incidents in Elizabeth City, North Carolina; Memphis; and Detroit left seven people dead and seven others injured. [Gun Violence Archive]