Michigan school shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley’s parents have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the deadly massacre earlier this week.
Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald’s office filed the charges against James and Jennifer Crumbley, the Associated Press reported on Friday, three days after their 15-year-old son allegedly opened fire in the halls of Oxford High School, killing four classmates and wounding seven others. The parents each face four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Ms McDonald announced the charges at a press conference at noon and said she filed them because while Mr Crumbley is the one who pulled the trigger, “there are other individuals who contributed to this”. “It is my intention to hold them accountable,” she said.
The prosecutor noted that the involuntary manslaughter charge is the strongest allowed under the law, which states that the parents of a child who violates firearm-related statutes on school property or in a school vehicle can be held criminally liable if the parent knew the child’s intentions or furthered their actions.
Mr Crumbley’s mother Jennifer texted him “Ethan, don’t do it” after she heard reports of an active shooter at his school, Ms McDonald said on Friday.
When he heard the reports, the suspect’s father James called 911 to report a gun was missing, officials said.
The gun Mr Crumbley allegedly used – a Sig Sauer 9mm model SP 2022 – had been stored in an unlocked drawer at the family’s home, according to Ms McDonald. The suspect went with his father to purchase the gun on Black Friday and then posted about trying out his “new Christmas present” on social media.
Ms McDonald also provided new details about the two incidents that prompted teachers to raise alarms about Mr Crumbley’s behaviour prior to the shooting.
On Monday, a teacher reportedly found Mr Crumbley searching for ammunition on his cellphone. His parents were alerted, and his mother Jennifer allegedly texted him: “LOL I’m not mad at you, you have to learn not to get caught.”
On Tuesday, a different teacher found on a note on Mr Crumbley’s desk which featured a drawing of a handgun a bullet with the words: “The thoughts won’t stop, help me” and “blood everywhere”.
Mr Crumbley’s parents were called in as a result of the note, but fought to have him return to class, Ms McDonald said.
The prosecutor went on to call the parents’ failure to prevent Tuesday’s shooting “criminal”.
“I have tremendous compassion and empathy for parents who have children who are struggling and at risk for whatever reason. And I am no means saying an active shooter situation should always result in a criminal prosecution against parents,” she said.
“But the facts of this case are so egregious, reading this document, looking at it, reading the words ‘help me, with a gun, blood everywhere,’ this doesn’t just have impact [on] me as a prosecutor and lawyer, it impacts me as a mother. The notion that a parent could read those words and also know their son had access to a deadly weapon, that they gave him, is unconscionable and I think it’s criminal. It is criminal.”
Ms McDonald said she brought the charges to send a message about the responsibility faced by gun owners.
“When they fail to uphold that responsibility, there are serious and criminal consequences,” she said. “As we work together to honour the lives lost and all of those impacted by the evil acts this week, justice for the victims and their families is at the forefront of today’s announcement.
“We need to do better in this country. We need to say enough is enough for our kids, our teachers, parents, for all of us in this community and the communities across this nation.”
Jennifer and James Crumbley’s arraignment is scheduled for 4pm Friday.
Earlier this week, it was revealed Jennifer Crumbley had written an open letter to Donald Trump on her blog in 2016, praising the Republican’s position on gun rights.
“As a female and a Realtor, thank you for allowing my right to bear arms,” she wrote. “Allowing me to be protected if I show a home to someone with bad intentions. Thank you for respecting that Amendment.”
Ethan Crumbley is currently being held without bond at the Oakland County Jail on 24 charges, including one count of terrorism and four counts of first-degree murder.