Musk Hts supt.: ‘No indication of serious violence’

The scene after shots were fired at Muskegon Heights High School. (Feb. 9, 2016)

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) — District officials from both Muskegon Heights and Grand Rapids said they heard “chatter” of a rivalry before Tuesday night’s basketball game, but nothing that led them to think there would be a shooting.

“Nothing that we heard about led us to believe there was a possibility of such violence — gun violence. Nothing at all,” Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System Superintendent Alena Zachery-Ross said during a Wednesday press conference.

Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System Superintendent Alena Zachery-Ross at a Feb. 10, 2016 press conference.
Superintendent Alena Zachery-Ross at a Feb. 10, 2016 press conference.

Four people were shot outside Muskegon Heights High School after the basketball game between Muskegon Heights and Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills. One of those was the alleged shooter, who was shot by a Muskegon County sheriff’s deputy. A fifth person was also injured, Zachery-Ross said during her press conference, but 24 Hour News 8 did not have any indication that person was shot. Everyone who was hurt has been released from the hospital.

Grand Rapids Public Schools spokesman John Helmholdt told 24 Hour News 8 on Wednesday that before the game, the district heard from parents who were concerned about posts they saw on social media. Helmholdt said the posts seemed to be rivalry-based, though there were some threats. However, he said, nothing district officials saw made them think there would a shooting.

The district shared the information with Muskegon Heights and contacted both Muskegon Heights and state police.

Zachery-Ross reiterated that during her press conference, saying officials “had no indication at all there would be any threat of this serious violence.”

She said officials from both districts and local law enforcement discussed the online chatter, but “believed it did not rise to a level that would cause us to cancel the game.”

It was decided that security would be increased, and GRPS also provided some extra security.

“We did take precautions. We barred several individuals from the game to avoid distraction and to avoid disruption,” she continued. “Again, this was not the result of any prior specific threats.”

Helmholdt declined to comment on whether the game should have been canceled or if the people involved were former GRPS students. He did say they were not current students.

Watch Zachery-Ross’s press conference below. App users can click here to view the press conference.

The shooting happened outside the school after the basketball game. Zachery-Ross said the four victims were bystanders who were leaving the game. Two were Muskegon Heights High School Students. None of their names had been released as of Wednesday afternoon.

“We’re absolutely sickened by these acts of violence. We take this very, very seriously. And we’re saddened that the fact that two of our own high school students were injured. We will do everything that we can to support and assist these students and their families,” Zachery-Ross said.

Some of the victims rushed back inside the school. Zachery-Ross tended to them.

After shots were first fired, police said on Tuesday night, a sheriff’s deputy came upon a suspect and ordered him to drop his weapon. Instead, the suspect allegedly pointed it at the deputy. The deputy opened fire, shooting the suspect.

That suspect, 21-year-old Clarence McCaleb, was treated at the hospital and then released. Wednesday, he was charged with assaulting the sheriff’s deputy with a dangerous weapon and felony firearm.

Zachery-Ross said she was told by the Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office that McCaleb is believed to have been the only civilian involved who was in possession of a firearm.

The Grand Rapids Police Department said it is assisting Muskegon Heights police with the investigation and is “handing efforts here in Grand Rapids.”

Muskegon Heights schools have canceled classes for Thursday. They were scheduled to begin their mid-winter break on Feb. 12, so the next time students will be back in class is Feb. 22. Zachery-Ross said officials would discuss the shooting with students when they returned to school.

She also said that the district’s crisis team would remain in place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday to help any students and staff in need of counseling, and that additional counseling would be provided to students who had questions or needed more attention.

She said the county prosecutor said the shooting appears to have been a isolated incident.

“However,” she qualified, “we are taking several precautions, we’re taking several steps to further strengthen our security, to better communicate with our students and staff. We expect strong police presence that will continue throughout our neighborhoods.”

“Finally, I would like to say our hearts and our thoughts are will all those that were involved … who are just in the atmosphere yesterday,” she continued,” We will continue to work with our law enforcement as this investigation continues.”

**Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills as Grand Rapids Orchard Hills. The article has been corrected.

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