A prosecutor in Michigan on Friday filed involuntary manslaughter charges against the parents of 15-year-old school shooter Ethan Crumbley, who is accused of killing four students at Oxford High School, after alleging that the parents ignored multiple warning signs and refused to take their son out of school just hours before the shooting.
Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald charged James and Jennifer Crumbley with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.
During a press conference on Friday, McDonald revealed some stunning new details leading up to the shooting on Tuesday afternoon, including that Jennifer Crumbley texted her son during the rampage, saying, ‘Ethan, don’t do it,’ and that her husband James called 911 to report that his gun – a 9 mm Sig Sauer SP 2022 – was missing and that Ethan was likely the shooter.
The prosecutor revealed that James Crumbley, who, like his wife, had a prior criminal history in Michigan, bought the murder weapon from a retailer with his son there on November 26.
The father, according to McDonald, stored the 9mm handgun in an unlocked drawer in his bedroom.
A day later, Ethan’s mother posted a message on social media that read: ‘mom and son testing out his new Christmas present.’
Less than a week before the gun was purchased, on Nov 21, McDonald said that a teacher at Oxford High School observed Ethan searching ammunition on his cell during class and reported it to school officials.
Jennifer was contacted by the school about her son’s inappropriate internet search, and officials followed up with an email but received no response.
The mother exchanged texts with her son on that day stating: ‘lol, I’m not mad at you, you have to learn not to get caught.’
On the morning of the shooting, a teacher found a chilling note on Ethan’s desk, which featured disturbing drawings depicting a gun, a bullet, blood everywhere, a shooting victim and a laughing emoji.
According to the prosecutor, the note included the words: ‘Thoughts won’t stop, help me’; ‘my life is useless’ and ‘the world is dead.’
Jennifer and James were immediately summoned to the school to discuss their son’s worrying behavior. A school counselor was able to obtain the note with the drawing, but McDonald said by then the noted had been ‘altered.’
The doodles of the gun and the bullet-ridden figure were ‘scratched out,’ as well as Ethan’s writings.
During the meeting, the Crumbleys were shown the note and were advised that they were required to get Ethan into counselling within 48 hours.
According to the prosecutor, the mother and father failed to ask Ethan if he had his gun with him, or where his gun was, and did not inspect his backpack.
McDonald said the parents ‘resisted’ the idea of pulling their son out of the school at that time and left without him.
Officials previously said that at 12.51pm, Ethan walked into a bathroom at Oakland High School with a backpack, then emerged less than a minute later carrying the Sig Sauer handgun and opened fire.
At 1.22pm – more than 30 minutes after the shooting was first reported – Jennifer texted her son, saying: ‘Ethan, don’t do it,’ the prosecutor said.
At 1.37pm, James called 911, reporting his newly purchased gun missing. He also told an emergency dispatcher that he believed his son might be the shooter at Oxford High School.
Under Michigan law, an involuntary manslaughter charge can be pursued if prosecutors believe someone contributed to a situation where the probability of harm or death was high.
‘The parents were the only individuals in the position to know the access to weapons,’ McDonald said Thursday. The gun, which Ethan’s father, James Crumbley, had just purchased four days before the rampage, ‘seems to have been just freely available to that individual.’
Bill Kucyk, the owner of a local gun range, told Fox 2 that the murder weapon – a 9 mm Sig Sauer SP 2022 – has been out of production for years and was likely purchased through a private seller.
Ethan has been charged as an adult with two dozen crimes, including murder, attempted murder and terrorism, for the shooting on Tuesday.
A source told Fox 2 ahead of Friday’s press conference that Jennifer and James Crumbley will face criminal charges in connection with the mass shooting.
The school shooting – the deadliest in the US since 2018 – claimed the lives of Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Justin Shilling, 17. Seven more people were injured. Three were in hospitals in stable condition.
The semi-automatic gun was purchased legally by Crumbley’s father on Black Friday, according to investigators.
Parents are rarely charged in school shootings involving their children, even as most minors get guns from a parent or relative’s house, according to experts.
Michigan has no law on the books that requires gun owners to keep weapons locked away from children. McDonald, however, suggested there’s more to build a case on.
All I can say at this point is those actions on mom and dad’s behalf go far beyond negligence,” she told WJR-AM. ‘We obviously are prosecuting the shooter to the fullest extent. … There are other individuals who should be held accountable.’
Later at a news conference, McDonald said she hoped to have an announcement ‘in the next 24 hours.” She had firmly signaled that Crumbley’s parents were under scrutiny when she filed charges against their son Wednesday.
Sheriff Mike Bouchard disclosed Wednesday that the parents met with school officials about their son’s classroom behavior, just a few hours before the shooting.
McDonald said information about what had troubled the school ‘will most likely come to light soon.’
Investigators said the attack was premeditated, citing videos Crumbley recorded the night before in which he talked about shooting students, as well as a journal recovered from his backpack that described his intent to murder classmates.
Crumbley stayed in school Tuesday and later emerged from a bathroom with his father’s new gun, firing at students in the hallway, police said.
The superintendent for the district late Thursday posted a YouTube video where he said the teenager was called to the office before the shooting but ‘no discipline was warranted.’
Tim Throne, leader of Oxford Community Schools, said the high school looks like a ‘war zone’ and won´t be ready for weeks. But he repeatedly credited students and staff for how they responded to the violence.
‘To say that I am still in shock and numb is probably an understatement. These events that have occurred will not define us,’ Throne, grim-faced and speaking slowly, said in the 12-minute video.
‘I want you to know that there´s been a lot of talk about the student who was apprehended, that he was called up to the office and all that kind of stuff. No discipline was warranted,’ Throne said. ‘There are no discipline records at the high school. Yes this student did have contact with our front office, and, yes, his parents were on campus Nov. 30.’