Biden on shooting: 'My heart goes out to the families enduring unimaginable grief'

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

President Joe Biden expressed compassion Tuesday for the families of the victims of the tragic shooting at Oxford High School where three were killed and at least eight wounded.

Biden was one of many elected officials in Michigan and across the nation who weighed in on the shooting. 

“As we learn the full details, my heart goes out to the families enduring the unimaginable grief of losing a loved one,” Biden said.

“You got to know that that whole community has to be just in a state of shock right now.”

President Joe Biden speaks at Dakota County Technical College, in Rosemount, Minn., on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021.  "You got to know that that whole community has to be just in a state of shock right now.," Biden said in remarks just before his scheduled speech.

Biden was told of the school shooting in Oxford by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in advance of his tour Tuesday at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, Minnesota, the White House said. 

Authorities took the shooter, an unidentified 15-year-old sophomore, into custody Tuesday, saying the weapon was a semi-automatic handgun.

The students killed include two females, ages 14 and 17, and a 16-year-old male, Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe said. 

Two of the wounded were in surgery Tuesday evening, while the other six were in stable condition with "various" gunshot wounds, McCabe said. The victims have not yet been identified. 

Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden's traveling team would remain in close touch with staff at the White House and provide regular updates to Biden as new information surfaces.

Reporters later asked Biden at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport before his departure back to Washington, D.C., if he planned to travel to Michigan to talk to the families of those who were shot.

"I don't know that I'm able to do that," he said. "I don't even have the detail of who the families are."

But the president indicated that he spoke to U.S. Rep Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, about the shooting.

"And I think she knew somebody who was there," Biden said, adding that "I don't know anybody who was injured."

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appeared with McCabe at an evening news conference, telling reporters, "This is every parent's worst nightmare."

"My heart goes out to the families. This is an unimaginable tragedy," she said. 

Whitmer ordered flags within the State Capitol Complex and on public buildings and grounds across the state to be lowered to half-staff to honor and remember the shooting victims. 

"I want to thank the first responders on the ground working hard to keep people safe as law enforcement officials investigate this shooting and get the community the help it needs right now," she said in a statement earlier Tuesday.

“As Michiganders, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect each other from gun violence. No one should be afraid to go to school, work, a house of worship, or even their own home," Whitmer added.

"Gun violence is a public health crisis that claims lives every day. We have the tools to reduce gun violence in Michigan. This is a time for us to come together and help our children feel safe at school."

Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter noted that the county's Emergency Operations Center has been activated to offer support to first responders and families in Oxford.

"The entire Oakland County community is in shock by this terrifying display of violence, and our thoughts are with Oxford families tonight," Coulter said in a statement.

Lawmakers with Oakland County ties shared their feelings as well. 

"This is heartbreaking. Schools are a place where students should be safe," tweeted Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township.

"I’m thinking of the families & friends who lost loved ones in Oxford today — and the entire community grappling with this harrowing news. Grateful to law enforcement & authorities for their swift response."

State Sen. Rosemary Bayer, D-Beverly Hills, called the shooting "simply horrifying."

"On top of an already difficult situation with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our students now have to face this traumatic situation in a place that is supposed to be a safe space for learning and growth," Bayer said. 

“My heart goes out to all those involved. I am working with local authorities to understand all the information and provide as much assistance as my office can," she added.

"I encourage anyone with information about this situation to share it with the police, and I thank our local responders for their swift assistance and response during this difficult time.”

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, whose district includes the school, said she was headed back to Michigan from Washington, D.C., on Tuesday afternoon. 

"This is a dark & painful day for Michigan. I send my deepest condolences to the families of the three students who have lost their lives — they have received the worst news any parent can ever imagine," Slotkin tweeted.

"We must continue to pray and hope for the additional students and teacher who have been injured, and for the students who are in shock right now. They will somehow have to make sense of one of their peers doing this to them."

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said her heart goes out to the parents who lost their children and to the school community "reeling" from the tragedy of the shooting.

"My department has reached out to local law enforcement to offer assistance as this investigation unfolds, and I want to extend my sincere gratitude to first responders on the scene," Nessel said.      

“We must act to properly address gun violence in our schools and the ongoing threat of another unconscionable tragedy if we continue to only offer thoughts and prayers. Our kids deserve better."  

State Rep. John Reilly, R-Oakland Township, said he was praying for a quick recovery for those wounded and "comfort" for families and friends grieving lost loved ones.

"A tragedy like this shocks us all, and we need to support the people who endured this horrific trauma," Reilly said.

"Our community is unified in the face of this heinous act of violence, and we are especially grateful to our law enforcement officers and first responders for their efforts.”

Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser similarly offered his support.

“There aren’t enough words to express our sorrow for the senseless act of violence that took place earlier today in Oakland County," Weiser said in a statement. "We are keeping all Oxford High families in our prayers at this time.”

U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills, she was anguished over the Oxford High shooting and a community that "will never be the same." 

"So many want change, we must continue to ask for it," Stevens tweeted. "Pushing to end gun violence as we help people heal is the imperative effort ahead."