PONTIAC, Michigan (AP) — A teenage girl on Friday recalled helping to rescue a girl who was critically injured during an attack Michigan school shooting in 2021, She told a judge that she took her to an empty classroom, pressured her to stop the bleeding, and prayed with her.
“I asked her if she knew who God was. She said, ‘Not really,'” recalls 17-year-old Heidi Allen.
“I think I should be here by now,” she said, describing how she felt at the time. “Because there’s no other reason I’m fine that I’m completely untouched in this hallway.”
Heidi testified at a hearing to determine whether 17-year-old Ethan Crumbley should receive a life sentence or a shorter sentence with the possibility of parole for killing four students and injuring seven others at Oxford High School.
She said she recognized him as soon as he left the bathroom and brandished a gun.
“It fired,” remembers Heidi. “Everything kind of slowed down for me. It was all slow motion. I had my head covered. I fell. … It sounded like a balloon popping or a locker slamming shut. It was very loud.
“I was just praying and covering my head,” she said. “I didn’t know if those were my last moments.”
Heidi was not shot, but others were. She said she took a girl into a classroom, put a portable lock on the door and put pressure on the girl’s sores. The victim survived.
“I kept assuring her that she would be fine. She cried,” said Heidi. “I can’t quite remember what she said. I tried to stay calm.”
The then 15-year-old shooter pleaded guilty to murder, terrorism and other crimes. But a life sentence for a minor isn’t automatic after one series of decisions by the US Supreme Court and the Michigan Supreme Court.
Defense attorneys argue that he could be rehabilitated in prison and eventually released. They said the shooting stemmed from years of tumultuous family life, grossly negligent parents and untreated mental illness.
A former warden, Ken Romanowski, testified about a variety of programs offered at the prison, including mental health therapy, anger management, education and craft skills.
“Honestly, I think everyone has the potential for change. But he has to be the one who makes that decision,” said Romanowski, who played for defence.
A psychiatrist, Dr. Fariha Qadir said Crumbley spoke about depression, hallucinations and hearing voices when they first met after his arrest. She spoke to him more than 100 times in prison and prescribed him medication for depression, mood swings and sleep.
James and Jennifer Crumbley are separately charged with involuntary manslaughter. They are accused of buying a gun for their son and ignoring his psychological needs.
Judge Kwame Rowe earlier Friday denied a request by the shooter’s attorneys to stop students from testifying. They argued that this was irrelevant when using the key factors established by the US Supreme Court in determining a sentence for a minor.
“I can distinguish what is relevant to the … factors and what is not,” the judge said.
On Friday, the public prosecutor’s office presented further witnesses. An assistant principal, Kristy Gibson-Marshall, tearfully described trying to revive Tate Myre, a student she had known since he was three years old. He died.
“It was devastating. I had to help him,” Gibson-Marshall testified. “I could feel the entry wound in the back of his head. … I just kept talking to him that I love him, that I needed him to stay with me.”
It “was months before I could get the taste of Tate’s blood out of me,” she said.
Gibson-Marshall also knew the gunman who passed but did her no harm.
Separately, a 16-year-old boy explained how he hid in a bathroom with another student, Justin Shilling, who was killed by the gunman. Keegan Gregory said he suddenly found an opportunity to run behind the shooter’s back and escape.
“I realized that if I stayed, I would die,” said Keegan, who now has a tattoo honoring the victims. “I just kept running as fast as I could and turned away so if he followed me I would lose him.”
The hearing will continue on Tuesday.
If the shooter does not receive a life sentence, he would face a minimum prison sentence of between 25 and 40 years. He would then be eligible for parole, although the parole board has wide discretion to hold a prisoner in custody.
There were ways earlier that day that could potentially prevent the shooting. The boy and his parents met with school staff after a teacher was concerned about drawings depicting a gun aimed at the words, “Thoughts don’t stop.” Help me.”
The teenager was allowed to stay at the school, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Detroit, although his backpack was not checked for weapons.