Oxford school officials destroying evidence in wake of mass shooting, lawyer says

Detroit — Oxford Community School officials are destroying social media pages and other evidence that lawyers for siblings who survived last week's mass shooting want preserved, according to a Friday federal court filing.

Lawyers, who filed a $100 million lawsuit against the school district on behalf of two survivors Thursday, asked a U.S. District judge to order school officials to preserve the evidence and have social media companies restore deleted profiles and other information. 

U.S. District Judge Terrence Berg granted the request hours later and ordered Oxford school officials, including Superintendent Timothy Throne and High School Principal Steven Wolf, to preserve electronically stored evidence that relates to the lawsuit.

Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger discusses lawsuits against Oxford Community Schools and school staff during a news conference at his Southfield law office on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. Fieger filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Oxford students and siblings Riley Franz, 17, a senior, and Bella Franz, 14, a freshman. Riley was shot in the neck while next to Bella during the attack. At right are the girls' parents, Jeffrey and Brandi Franz.

Attorney Nora Hanna cited several pieces of missing or destroyed information, including one defendant’s LinkedIn profile and a listing of high school administrators from the school website.

"Not only did defendants fail to take necessary steps to preserve the evidence, but they willfully destructed the evidence by deleting the webpages and social media accounts," Hanna wrote. "Plaintiffs cannot continue to be blindsided by the defendants by having to search for what evidence is being destroyed or altered."

The request by Hanna, a lawyer for sisters Riley Franz, 17, an Oxford High School senior, and Bella Franz, 14, a freshman, comes one day after lawyer Geoffrey Fieger detailed the lawsuit filed on behalf of the siblings who survived the Nov. 30 attack that left four students dead and seven other people wounded.

The allegation deepens the legal fallout from the country’s deadliest school shooting since 2018.

The attorneys are asking several companies to hold on to any records they may have related to the shooting. Fieger's legal team has sent preservation requests to a slew of companies, public agencies and social media firms. That includes Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, the FBI, Department of Justice, Oakland County Sheriff's Office.

In addition to accounts, attorneys are also asking Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to save posts using the hashtags #OxfordStrong, #OxfordSchoolShooting and #OxfordShooting from Nov. 30, as well as any posts, photos or messages sent or shared from the school that day.

Some of the biggest requests are made of the school district, asking it to produce all files on the alleged shooter, video footage made of the suspect's family, any correspondence addressing potential threats and all employment records of all counselors, teachers and staff of the school.

Included in the request are handbooks for and training materials given to several administrators, including Thorne and Wolf.

One example cited in the filing is a LinkedIn page featuring a person who Fieger's firm believes is employed by the school that the school district's attorney argues is not.

Timothy J. Mullins, the attorney for the Oxford school district, sent Fieger a letter on Thursday afternoon demanding him to retract allegations in the lawsuit against the person in question, saying the man has not worked at the district in more than a year and the allegations against him are false.

In a Friday night statement from the school district, Mullins said the lawsuits were "bombastic stunts masked as legal filings" that "do a disservice to the people of Oxford and the people of Michigan."

"These latest false allegations are baseless, reckless and totally irresponsible," Mullins said in a statement to The News. "Mr. Fieger has named the wrong person in his sloppy legal filings and is refusing to retract his statements and dismiss him immediately, which is unconscionable.

"School employees continue to receive death threats, and Mr. Fieger is throwing gasoline on the fire with his shameless, callous and irresponsible tactics and angry rhetoric.”

Other requests include asking Abbey Ridge, the apartment complex next to the school, to save any recordings it may have of the shooting or of students and families coming and going after, and asking AT&T to save and produce all files, including calls and texts, to or from the Crumbleys and several administrators.

The same request was made of a Meijer store and a Tim Horton’s near the school.

That lawsuit announced Thursday accuses school officials of failing to stop an attack that inflicted physical and psychological injuries on students and spreads the blame among the highest-ranking Oxford school officials along with unidentified teachers and counselors.

The lawsuit marked the start of what is expected to be a flurry of lawsuits seeking to hold the district and school officials responsible for a massacre that prosecutors say was carried out by 15-year-old sophomore Ethan Crumbley.