Fact check: Viral video from Oxford High School shooting doesn't show suspect impersonating sheriff

·4 min read

The claim: A video shows the Michigan high school shooter impersonating a sheriff

In the wake of the Nov. 30 shooting at Michigan's Oxford High School that resulted in four deaths and multiple injuries, a video purporting to show the alleged school shooter impersonating a sheriff has gone viral on social media.

Online users claim the video includes the voice of Ethan Crumbley, the 15-year-old who has been identified by authorities as the school shooting suspect. He has been charged with first-degree murder, terrorism and other charges and could face a life sentence if convicted.

The roughly one-minute clip, which was shared to Instagram by the page Urban News on Dec. 3, shows a group of students huddling in the corner of a classroom with the lights off as someone outside the door says, “It’s safe to come out.”

In response, someone inside of the room says, “We’re not willing to take that risk right now.” Students became skeptical after the individual on the other side of the door said, “Come to the door and look at my badge bro.”

The casual language and use of the word “bro” set off a warning for the students, who called it a “red flag” and fled the classroom through a back window.

“School Shooter pretending to be a Sherrif (sic),” reads text over the video, which was originally shared to TikTok on Dec. 1 and generated more than 9 million likes within a week. “I don’ trust Oxford schools anymore.”

In the days following the shooting, the video made its way to Facebook, Twitter, news pages and Reddit.

But the video is wrong. The voice heard on the video in fact belongs to a member of the Oakland County Sheriff's Office.

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The TikTok user who shared the claim pointed to a new post clarifying that the video does not include the shooter, however, the original post is still active. Urban News and the other social media users who shared the posts did not return requests for comment.

Sheriff disputes claims

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard addressed the claims during a Dec. 1 news conference, in which he told reporters that the video circulating on social media likely shows a plainclothes officer, not the gunman impersonating a sheriff to lure students out of the classroom.

“We have now been able to determine that was not the suspect,” Bouchard said. “More than likely, it was one of our plainclothes detectives, and he may have been (saying) ‘bro’ in a conversational manner to try to bring them down from the crisis.”

Cellphone footage shows students huddled in their classroom during a shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan.
Cellphone footage shows students huddled in their classroom during a shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan.

Bouchard added that a review of all video surveillance footage from the time the shooting incident began to the time the suspect was taken into custody showed the alleged gunman never knocked on any doors or entered any classrooms.

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Oxford High School freshman Mark Kluska, 15, recorded the clip while he was in his sign-language class, according to CNN. He told the network that Moises Cortez, his teacher, shut the classroom door with a metal doorstopper and turned off the lights after a shooter lockdown was announced on the school’s loudspeakers.

Police have a "tremendous amount of video footage" from school cameras, according to Bouchard. Oxford school officials said an investigation will be conducted focusing on the events leading up to the shooting.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE a video claiming to show the Michigan high school shooter impersonating a sheriff. The Oakland County sheriff said the video does not depict the suspect and likely shows a plainclothes officer. A review of video footage showed the suspect did not knock on any doors during the shooting.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Viral Video shows officer, not Michigan school shooter

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