GAINES TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — At least two people detained in Livonia Friday afternoon are believed to have been involved in the exchange of gunfire outside East Kentwood High School Thursday evening, authorities say.
The Kent County Sheriff’s Department said that its detectives, with help from Michigan State Police and Livonia police, conducted a traffic stop in Livonia around 4 p.m. Friday. Five people were detained. At least two — both 18-year-old men from Grand Rapids — and as many as three are believed to have been involved in the shooting, authorities said.
The sheriff’s department said multiple guns were recovered.
“We at the KCSO understand this information is limited but felt it necessary to update the community to know that significant progress is being made,” the sheriff’s department said in a Friday evening release. “The safety of our Kent County community is paramount, and we are working with area law enforcement partners to ensure a swift resolution.”
Authorities said they are still looking for more suspects — the sheriff indicated earlier in the day there were at least five shooters total. Detectives said they were still combing through video footage and developing leads.
During a press conference Friday morning, Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young said “many, many, many shots were fired” in the parking lot at the high school on Kalamazoo Avenue around 7:20 p.m. Thursday after the Crossroads Alternative High School graduation.
About 400 people were around to celebrate the graduation of about 75 students.
“It’s a miracle that more people were not struck,” Kent County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Eric Brunner said.
“There’s still several people walking the street. I can see kids holding a parent’s hand here… Grandparents are present,” Brunner continued, referencing surveillance images from the scene.
LaJoye-Young said a white Hyundai sedan drove into the parking lot, someone leaned out the front passenger’s side window and started shooting at people who were near the stadium.
“Several rounds are fired from that white Hyundai as it’s approaching people,” Brunner said. “You can see people (bystanders) to the left and right of the vehicle. They’re on the ground, they’re taking cover.”
While the Hyundai sped away, a group that was attending the graduation started shooting back before taking off in a white Mercedes sedan.
“It would lead me to believe that, yes they did (have guns at the graduation),” LaJoye-Young said.
LaJoye-Young said the groups of suspects might be known to each other. She said it appears one group targeted the other.
In all, she said, there were as many as five shooters. She said deputies found at least four different types of rounds that all belong to automatic weapons at the scene. LaJoye-Young said at least one firearm seen in the video had an extended magazine.
Two people who were shot, a 16-year-old Texas boy and a 40-year-old Grand Rapids woman, went to the hospital on their own, LaJoye-Young said. The teenager was shot in the wrist and was soon released from the hospital. The woman was shot in the wrist and the abdomen. LaJoye-Young said she underwent surgery on Thursday and was listed in critical but stable condition Friday morning.
The two people who were shot may have been bystanders caught in the crossfire.
“There was a complete disregard for the safety of individuals who are unrelated to this connection to these two groups,” LaJoye-Young said. “It really is difficult as a community to process the loss of safety that happens with that.”
Deputies found the Mercedes in Grand Rapids overnight, LaJoye-Young said. The Hyundai, which didn’t have any plates and had been reported stolen out of Kentwood, was found abandoned behind a business on Kalamazoo Avenue near 60th Street SE. She added that the Hyundai is believed to be involved in other stolen vehicle thefts. The Mercedes had not been stolen. Both vehicles were being processed, she said.
Deputies asked anyone with photos or videos to submit them through an online form. Anyone with information or video of the incident can also contact the sheriff’s office at 616.632.6100 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.
East Kentwood High School was closed Friday. In a statement, Kentwood Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Polston said classes would resume Monday. Crisis team members will be on campus.
“When violence occurs in the community it is troubling and tragic. Students may experience anxiety following incidents such as this,” Polston wrote. “KPS has professional services available to provide support and counseling to any students that need assistance. Please be aware of any students who may need professional services and refer them to your school principal. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families.”
As the school year wraps up, Polston said, there will be more safety measures in place, including more law enforcement and security personnel around.
However, Polston reminded the school community, “There is no active threat involving our schools and it is believed the incident at the Crossroads graduation is isolated.” He called on anyone with information about or photos or video of the shooting to contact investigators.
“The strength of the Kentwood community is our ability to rally in support of each other during times of need,” Polston stated. “We will get through this together.”
—News 8’s Susan Samples contributed to this report.