The Michigan School Shooter Can Be a Murderer Without Also Being a Terrorist

The shooting was horrific, and the shooter deserves prosecution. But the charges should fit the crimes.


On Tuesday, a 15-year-old student at Oxford High School opened fire in the Michigan school's hallways. Within minutes of the first 911 call, the shooter, Ethan Crumbley, was in custody. Four students were killed. Another six students and one teacher were injured.

On Wednesday, Crumbley was charged as an adult with 24 counts, including four charges of first-degree murder and seven charges of assault with intent to murder. Those charges are certainly appropriate. But another—"terrorism causing death"—is cause for concern.

The definition of terrorism is not without controversy. For most people, the term evinces images of the September 11 attacks or suicide bombings, and indeed, Michigan's anti-terrorism law went into effect just months after 9/11. It defines the act as a "violent felony…that the person knows or has reason to know is dangerous to human life…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." The FBI uses a similar definition.

Does that apply here? Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald explained in a Wednesday press conference that while the 11 people killed and injured were covered by the murder and attempted murder charges, "what about all the children who ran, screaming, hiding under desks? 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 set foot back in that school? Those are victims too, and so are their families, and so is the community, and the charge of terrorism reflects that." Later, Sheriff Michael Bouchard indicated that the police had yet to determine a motive.

Without an explicit intent to intimidate a civilian population or effect political change, the Michigan statute seems not to apply. And if there is currently no obvious motive, then applying the charge seems like overreach.

In Michigan, first-degree murder carries a penalty of life in prison without parole, as does assault with intent to murder. If convicted on even one of those 11 charges, Crumbley will never leave prison. So it's not as though they need to tack on the charge to ensure that the shooter is severely punished.

There is, unfortunately, a broad trend underway of anti-terror mission creep. More and more often, prosecutors bring "terrorism" charges while fewer and fewer of the acts involved resemble the way the term is typically defined. Meanwhile, as the anti-terror mentality seeps further and further into everyday usage, it justifies further expansions of spying and surveillance at the expense of individual liberty, whether at a national or a local level.

Just as the punishment should fit the crime, the charge should fit the crime as well. And even when a crime is especially appalling, prosecutors should not tack on unnecessary charges that could contribute to the erosion of other people's liberties.

NEXT: Judge Orders Massachusetts Prisons To Stop Using 'Highly Unreliable' Drug Field Tests To Punish Inmates

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  1. More and more often [Please include a link (or something in the text) backing up the claim that this is happening more frequently]

    What the ... !

    Reason has an editor?

    1. Say it ain't so, Joe!

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    2. They only have 3 editors at large, 3 senior editors, and a host of interns. How many more people do they need?

      1. There's no money left for an ordinary actual editor.

        Like the school that hired a janitor, who needed a boss so they hired a supervisor, then hired a secretary for the boss, and that required an HR clerk, who also needed a boss, and then the budget was blown so they fired the cheapest employee -- the janitor!

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        2. Like the school

          Beginning to look more and more like every school hired a bunch of Union teachers, discovered they had nothing to do and hired a bunch of people to have kids and send them to school, and now that budgets are tight, facing down the employees they're going to have to fire.

    3. That was the most hilarious thing i've seen from a news source in awhile. Someone hit 'publish' a little too soon.

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      2. Someone SugarFree hit 'publish' a little too soon.

      3. Probably not the first time a college guy has fired something off a bit early.

    4. Turns out Jesse is a Reason editor. Who knew?

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  2. And a red SUV driver can be lost or running from a fight without being a terrorist!

    1. What do you mean? SUVs kill people all on their own. It's a perfectly normal, everyday occurrence not worthy of any news coverage any more than a dog biting a man.

      1. I think you mean a black lab's teeth biting a man.

      2. If a gun manufacturer can be taken to court, why not a car manufacturer? They shouldn't have made it capable of powering through people.

      3. Brooks was beta testing Full Self-Driving... Just in the wrong vehicle. And, he's a violent bigot.

    2. I missed where Reason advocated for charging the Waukesha guy as a terrorist. And, near as I can tell, the Waukesha guy hasn't been charged with any terrorism-related offenses, so I'm not sure why you would expect Reason to be writing that she shouldn't be charged with such offenses. The shooter in this case actually has been charged with terrorism-related offenses, so that's the relevant point for the article.

      1. I missed where Reason advocated for charging the Waukesha guy as a terrorist.

        You also should have missed where he said/implied that Reason advocated any such thing, because he didn't.

  3. I thought terrorism was violence for political gain. As in civilians doing government work.

    1. "I thought terrorism was violence for political gain."

      I thought the same as well. It won't be good if lawyers/prosecutors are able to muddy the waters enough on the "terrorism" charge to extend to things that have scared people like what Karen McDonald says in the quote from the article.

    2. Now imagine if he had been a right wing
      douchebag instead, you hypocritical colostomy bag.

      1. For sarc

  4. Well. Aside from Reason dropping a big-ass-ham hint that they do in fact have an editor (I am still in shock), charges of terrorism are as idiotic and hate crimes, and worse than federal charges duplicating state charges, or civil trials for acquitted criminal charges.

    All are double jeopardy, but terrorism and hate crime charges don't even pretend to the fig leaf of a different jurisdiction or different standards.

    1. Reason, the print magazine, absolutely has an editor. The question is whether the Reason blog, which is a somewhat minor side activity of the Reason Foundation, has an editor.

      1. When you select all those sticks you shove your ass, do you have specific criteria or do you go with instinct.

    2. Yup. There's nothing wrong with people using terrorism or the terrorist label in a colloquial sense, but when it's got legal ramifications, you can't just slap it onto everyone. It perhaps shouldn't exist as a label at all if it can be applied to angry parents protesting at a meeting of their local schoolboard.

      School shooters like this are terrorists. No overseas affiliations, no list of demands. Just because people feel terror doesn't terrorism has happened. Words have meaning.

      1. No. If you encourage muddying the waters colloquially then you necessarily muddy the waters when your average joe is asked to serve on a jury.

        The guy that drove into a parade of white people is at least arguable because of his social media statements and the direct political line between words and action, but that is not certain like the Unibomber or others who draw that line explicitly.

      2. I am w/ SJin, colloquial use of terrorist/terrorism is little more than a deliberate muddying of the water, intellectual laziness, and/or deliberate redefinition to delineate a specific out-group. Much like 'antifa's' use of the nazi/fascist label for any of whom they disapprove, or progressives calling their out-group opponents white supremacists. Or their labeling the out-group as sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, for that matter.

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  6. "The charges should fit the crimes"? What kind of monster are you?

    The correct attitude is "The charges should fit the narrative."

    1. +1

    2. And don't forget, if self-defense is not a crime according to the law, then the law needs to be changed!

      1. That is one for the twisted annals of history. It goes next to 'reality has a well-known liberal bias.' Same walking colostomy-bag, oddly enough.

  7. Did people die, and was the killer white is all that needs to be answered for domestic terrorism charge in today's climate.

    A little melanin and you are good though, your car was the one at fault.

    1. Charge him with terrorism too. Both could be locked up for life and should be.

      1. Maybe it wasn't his fault. Maybe he had one of those self-firing guns like Alec Baldwin.

        1. That's my favorite part of Alec Baldwin, he is pulling the shaggy defence
          "I even saw you on set"
          Wasn't me
          I saw you holding the guuuun
          Wasn't me
          I even saw your finger on the trigger
          Wasn't me

  8. Dollar gets you a donut the shooter was the guy all the tough kids picked on all the time.

    1. I suspect that in his trial, he’ll pull video of specific victims saying nasty things about him, to get it put back into family court.

      Clearly, his lawyer will try to show it was a childish response to the hate he faced daily.

      The fact that he started in one spot with a specific person suggests he didn’t have as much of a grand plan as the pigs want everyone to believe.

      Of course, the stacking of charges is probably meant to ensure there will be no trial.

      1. Except they've stacked them so high there's nothing left to lose in going to trial.

  9. Not one mention of Waukesha.

    1. I have to agree. That was a genuine act of terrorism, as the killer explicitly did so for political reasons.

      Even the Rittenhouse case had the stench of terrorism about it. After all, burning down buildings in the name of a political cause is de-facto terrorism.

      This, this was a mass shooting at a school. These are almost always a form of suicide or, alternatively, omnicidal rage similar to a serial killer. Unless I'm missing some crucial evidence, there's no political motive here.

      1. Unless I'm missing some crucial evidence, there's no political motive here.

        You did kinda gloss over the political motives of a 15-yr.-old kid.

        Something about terrorism charges not being able to apply to a kid who hasn't reached draft age makes sense.

      2. as the killer explicitly did so for political reasons.

        Umm, so retweeting BLM memes is now prima facie evidence of motivation for terrorism?

        1. You're seriously downplaying his social media to that? Fuck off you dishonest marxist shill.

          1. "You're seriously downplaying his social media to that?"

            Breathtaking deceitfulness. If dishonesty was an art form, chemjeff would be its Van Gogh.

            1. I don’t call him Lying Jeffy for my health.

        2. Since 2010, social media is essentially the public forum for expressing such leanings.

        3. Umm, so retweeting BLM memes is now prima facie evidence of motivation for terrorism?

          Of course not. It's evidence that the person is somewhat politically active.

          Retweeting BLM memes and narratives and viewpoints prior to driving a truck into a crowd of predominantly white people in the aftermath of a verdict BLM hates though---THEN it might be indicative of a terroristic state of mind.

        4. Umm, so retweeting BLM memes is now prima facie evidence of motivation for terrorism?

          You realize it was 'discovered' post facto, not prima facie, right? He wasn't just picked up for speech on the internet like he was some Russian hacker, you have to ignore the fact that he was caught driving over children in order to make such a false equivalence.

    2. Reason does not cover local traffic accidents.

    3. You’re gonna make sarc throw a fit.

    4. Why would that be mentioned? The Waukesha guy isn't charged with any terrorism-related offenses, so it doesn't really seem relevant to the situation here.

  10. >>"terrorism causing death"

    only way to keep the T word on the fire.

  11. If, after interrogating the kid, they find a different kind of intent then they can simply drop the terrorism charges. But does this author know what the kid intended? A little more reporting about what we know at this point would be a bit more professional. Otherwise, this is just a Reason piece designed to confirm their own agenda.

    1. So you admit they are presuming his intent right now then?

      1. They’re not presuming anything.

        They’re pro(g)ecting intent.

    2. You can infer intent by the fact that he didn’t start shooting until he was inside the building, facing a specific target. This doesn’t scream random or political.

      It screams childish rage at someone or a group of someones.

  12. The kid was white, what else could it be but terrorism? I mean, seriously, you know who else was white?

    1. It’ll be something other than terrorism
      when he’s antifa.

    2. Osama bin Laden?

  13. Charges aside, there are some interesting snapchat videos that kids were making during the active shooter situation. In one, the shooter pounds on the door and announces that he is with the sheriff's department and for them to open up.

    Kids: Um...we're not comfortable doing that sir.
    Voice: It's ok, you can open the door. I need in there.
    Kids: Who are you again?
    Voice: Just open the door, bro.
    KIds: Bro? Beat it!

    At which point the kids run out the opposite exit to the classroom and get to safety.

    As a parent of a kid in high school, it really felt nice to see the kids acting like a pack rather than a herd. They followed the correct rules (shelter in place, until your situation seems compromised at which point you escape). And they didn't act like scared little babies.

    The kids will be just fine.

    1. So, WHO was pounding on the door? No one knows.
      But the kids' suspicions were indeed unfortunately well justified, I agree.
      Good for them. REAL good, perhaps.

    2. Local news reported that the county sheriff confirmed today that it was a deputy, and he was just trying to put them at ease by saying bro. Still, the teacher and kids did the right thing.

      1. Please as long as the classroom didn't have a dog in there the deputy would shoot

    3. Yeah. Fake news. It was a cop.

      These kids were IDIOTS.

      When taking shelter and HIDING, you don’t give up your position by taking a video in which you shout back to a possible MURDERER.

    4. The kids will be just fine... especially the perp.

  14. The left has been doing this in London for a while. Time to get with the times.

    These are SUVs of Peace

  15. Identity politics have taken over the fight on terrorism so that truth is sacrificed to fit the narrative of Whites attacking minorities. On the flip side of the coin, a Palestinian with ties to Hamas opened fire in the Old City of Jerusalem last month killing one victim and injuring four others. News reports in the West called him a "gunman", an "assailant", a "militant", and a "man", but refused to call him a terrorist, because they didn't want to hurt the cause.

    1. Al arab jarab.

      The bias you mention is very much alive and well in American media.

    2. "Identity politics have taken over the fight on terrorism so that truth is sacrificed to fit the narrative of Whites attacking minorities."

      Uh, except that as far as I can tell the vast majority of the victims in this shooting were also white (one girl may have been Asian or bi-racial white/Asian)....

  16. Joe,
    You need to look at two things, funding and reelection for the Prosecutor. By labeling certain crimes as "terrorism" they can request more funding from the Federal Government. It's like the DUI bullshit. Most Police departments have the "alcohol involved" box prechecked on their accident reports. I had an accident a few years ago and was talking to my Insurance agent. He asked if I knew that the "alcohol involved" box was checked on the report. I told him that the Police didn't even respond to the accident because no one was hurt, we got the vehicles off the road and there was no property damage. It just looks good when the Department applies to MADD and NHSTA for more funding.
    The number of charges also makes the Prosecutor look good at election time. I still cant figure out how there are 12 counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony for one incident.

  17. "...the shooter is severely punished."
    The brat will either be let off with a spanking, declared crazy with no spanking, or live a life of ease and comfort off the taxes collected from the survivors in that community. This is the closest thing yet to a situation where "the living envy the dead." At least the murdered will be spared the added humiliation and punishment of rewarding the killer for half a century.

  18. The real problem is that there’s a false notion of a “terrorism-exemption” to bypass the U.S. Constitution. Use the “T” word and officials perceive themselves as above their Oath of Office loyalty oath. The Judicial Branch courts have yet to overturn these unconstitutional practices by the political branches of government.

    The truth is the U.S. Constitution is a wartime charter designed for both wartime and terrorism since 1791. The Constitution already has wartime emergency clauses built in (ie: 3rd Amendment, Habeas corpus, ex post facto, etc). Officials have wanted to bypass restraints on their authority decades prior to 9/11. In the past 20 years falsely exploiting 9/11 has become a multi-billion dollar gravy train for the homeland security industry.

    Anyone on this post should try to file a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act Request) with their local “Fusion Center”. You probably can’t find a phone number or address, if you do they demand to know how you got that information. This applies even to non-terrorism cases. Voters can’t self-govern with this level of excessive secrecy.

  19. A media hungry prosecutor with an eye on higher office.
    Tailor made for today's entertainment.
    She said she was hoping the case would cause MI to change its gun laws.

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