'Every time there’s another shooting, it’s a setback,' says mother of Oxford school shooting survivor

Two years after the Oxford High School shooting, survivors and victims' loved ones packed an Oakland County courtroom to give testaments before the shooter was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

At the Friday hearing, the family and friends of those whose lives were taken –Madisyn Baldwin, Justin Shilling, Hana St. Juliana, and Tate Myre– spoke of how the shooter’s callous and cowardly actions shattered any peace they had previously known.

"Every time there’s another shooting, it’s a setback. Every time there’s another threat, it’s a setback," said Linda Watson in court; her son, Aiden, was wounded by the shooter.

Survivor and gun violence prevention advocate, Madeline Johnson, shared her favorite memories of her best friend, Baldwin, while wearing a shirt she had gifted her before she was killed.

"Madison used to draw me doodles on gum wrappers and I’d keep them," Johnson said. "One day she gifted me the one on the front of my shirt, and she said that it was the two of us as dinosaurs. Best friends even in the prehistoric times. This is one of the only things I have left to remember her by."

During another testimony, Olivia McMillian said she remembers the gut-wrenching text messages between her and Shilling as the shooter began terrorizing the school. 

"I sent a simple text ‘are you ok?’ Just asking if he and my other two friends were safe," McMillian said. "The response we got still makes me sick to my stomach. Justin told us he was in the bathroom with the shooter and the next text we got after was quote unquote ‘I love you guys.’ Little did I know that would be my last text I ever received from Justin."

The now 17-year-old shooter never looked up as the dozens of impact statements were read out loud.

"Physically, Aiden still has trouble with mobility, walking, running," the survivor's mother, Watson, said. "He tries to always push through the pain so that he could do everything that he’s ever wanted to do."

"When Aiden’s older brother was at MSU in February of 2023," Watson continued. "We received an alert of an active shooter on campus. Aiden started texting his brother telling him how to survive a school shooting. After that it was hard again. Aiden struggled with going back to school again, and that happens anytime something happens."

Other survivors are still struggling with their mental health amid the life-altering trauma.

"I remember a couple nights after the shooting happened, I couldn’t sleep in my room by myself because every little sound I heard felt like it was happening again," said survivor Liliana Alvarado. "I had to go to therapy and learn to deal with anxiety and being ok even when I wasn’t ok, and I still struggle with that today."


Oxford shooting survivor's narrow escape during attack haunts family

He recalls having two options - stay and be killed - or run. He ran – and lived.

As Judge Kwame Rowe delivered the life sentence, he said that the shooter's extensive planning and desire for notoriety could not be ignored by the court.

"He stated this afternoon that with help, that probably would not have stopped him," Rowe said. "He shot most people multiple times. And as he wrote, he did this for notoriety. He wanted to go down …as the biggest school shooter in Michigan history."

The shooter will stay at Oakland County Jail until his paperwork is processed with the state corrections department. From there he will be sent to the Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer, where there is a wing for juveniles. 

It is unknown when he will be moved, which could be Saturday or next week. The Oakland County Sheriff's Office will update their inmate list when he leaves.

Watch the sentencing of the Oxford school shooter below:

FOX 2 is not identifying the shooter out of respect for the survivors in this case.

More coverage on the Oxford school shooter's sentencing