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Police search for a motive in Tuesday's school shooting in Michigan

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

People in Oxford, Mich., are mourning today after a deadly shooting at a high school. Here's what we know. Three students were killed. Eight others, including a teacher, were wounded. A 15-year-old sophomore is in custody. And there's actually still a lot we don't know, including the most important reason - why?

Quinn Klinefelter of member station WDET in Detroit is covering the story. Quinn, what have we learned so far?

QUINN KLINEFELTER, BYLINE: It was just before 1 o'clock in the afternoon at Oxford High School, about 40 miles north of Detroit, when the gunfire first rang out. It ended just a few minutes later, with multiple law enforcement vehicles and ambulances in the parking lot, students being airlifted by helicopter to hospitals, fighting for their lives. Students and staff from the school evacuated to a nearby department store.

Oxford High School has 1,800 students and has a deputy based in the building. Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard says deputies rushed into the school, and they found a student coming towards them with a gun.

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MICHAEL BOUCHARD: It was loaded at the time and still contained seven rounds of ammunition. When they took it from him, he had a loaded firearm, and he was coming down the hall. That, again, I believe, interrupted what potentially could have been seven more victims.

KLINEFELTER: Sheriff Bouchard says they had no prior contact with him, and there was nothing to suggest that there were any problems with him at the school.

MARTINEZ: Quinn, any clear idea why this 15-year-old allegedly shot his fellow classmates and a teacher?

KLINEFELTER: No. Law enforcement officials say they're still investigating. They believe he acted alone. And they're not getting much help from the alleged gunman, who they say is not cooperating. He did not resist arrest, but officials say his parents visited him after he was taken into custody and the boy invoked his right not to speak without an attorney.

The sheriff said the gun, a 9 mm pistol, had been purchased legally by the student's father about four days before the shooting. He also confirmed that the suspect posted a picture of that gun on social media. And we have learned that there were some reports that warned about online threats about possible violence at the school. The sheriff said they were unaware of those. He called them just rumors for now.

But some parents and students took it very seriously. Parent Robin Redding, for one, says her kid and a few others stayed home because they were worried.

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ROBIN REDDING: Kids just - like, they're just mad at each other within the school. And the staffing at the school is trying to do their best they can to be able to keep these kids together, to stop it, to keep them focused. And it's just not working. It just - it got out of hand. This has to stop. This senseless killing - kids killing kids. Senseless.

MARTINEZ: What's the reaction been, Quinn?

KLINEFELTER: You know, what you might expect - shock, sadness, all the emotions that seem to occur when yet another of these terrible events occur at a place of learning. President Biden, for one, sent his condolences. Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin called it a deeply dark day in Michigan's history.

And Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer went to the site. She's pushed for gun control measures at the state Capitol, where some protesters had brandished rifles during legislative sessions in the past. But the governor, who is a parent herself, got emotional this time, saying that this is a time to support those who have lost their children not debate new policy.

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GRETCHEN WHITMER: This is a uniquely American problem that we need to address. But at this juncture, I think we need to focus on the community, the families. I think this is every parent's worst nightmare.

KLINEFELTER: Whitmer also ordered flags flown at half-staff at all state buildings to honor the victims.

MARTINEZ: Quinn Klinefelter of member station WDET in Detroit, thank you.

KLINEFELTER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.