The parents of a student accused of opening fire at Oxford High School in Oxford Township, Michigan, will be charged with involuntary manslaughter, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said Friday.
James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of 15-year-old suspect Ethan Crumbley, will face four charges each, one for each of the four students fatally shot on Tuesday. The shooting also wounded seven other people.
In a press conference explaining the charges Friday, McDonald described what she said were the steps leading up to Tuesday’s tragedy. She said these included failing to secure the firearm the shooter used, and overlooking clear warning signs ahead of time.
“While the shooter was the one who entered the high school and pulled the trigger, there were other individuals who contributed, and it’s my intention to hold them accountable as well,” McDonald said. “Gun ownership is a right, and with that right comes great responsibility.”
Ethan was charged as an adult Wednesday with murder, attempted murder and terrorism causing death.
On Tuesday morning, hours before the shooting, a teacher came across a drawing that Ethan, a sophomore, had made, McDonald said. The drawing depicted a semiautomatic handgun and a person who’d been shot twice and was bleeding. Several captions accompanied the picture, according to McDonald, including “the thoughts won’t stop, help me,” “the world is dead,” and “my life is useless,” among others.
James and Jennifer were summoned to the school, McDonald said, and were instructed to take Ethan to counseling within 24 hours. The parents resisted taking him home, however, and sent him back to class.
Soon after, Ethan allegedly emerged from a bathroom, firing a 9 mm Sig Sauer pistol that McDonald said James purchased with him last Friday.
The prosecutor said that Jennifer texted her son after the news of the shooting had been made public, saying: “Ethan, don’t do it.”
Earlier in the week, after one of Ethan’s teachers caught him researching ammunition on his phone during class, his parents failed to respond to a voicemail and email from the school alerting them, according to McDonald.
Instead, she said, Jennifer texted Ethan: “lol I’m not mad at you, you have to learn not to get caught.”
Days before the shooting, Ethan and Jennifer made separate posts on social media with photos of a weapon that appears to match the one used on Tuesday. In one post, Ethan posed with the gun and referred to it as his “new bb” along with a heart eyes emoji.
In another, Jennifer shared a photo of the weapon with the caption: “Mom & son day testing out his new Xmas present.”
The Oakland County Fugitive Apprehension Team launched a search effort Friday after the charges against the Crumbleys were announced and their attorney told Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe she’d been unable to contact them.
“Our last conversation with the attorney was that she had been trying to reach them by phone and text, and they were not responding,” McCabe told The Detroit News.
McCabe confirmed the development in a media release concerning the “fugitive parents” Friday afternoon, and said the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service were also engaged in the search.
“The action of fleeing and ignoring their attorney certainly adds weight to the charges,” he said. “They cannot run from their part in this tragedy.”
The Crumbleys’ attorneys, Smith and Mariell Lehman, told the Detroit Free Press in a statement that reports their clients are on the run are false. The attorneys said the parents would appear for their arraignment but would require time to do so after having left town “for their own safety”:
On Thursday night we contacted the Oakland County prosecutor to discuss this matter and to advise her that James and Jennifer Crumbley would be turning themselves in to be arraigned. Instead of communicating with us, the prosecutor held a press conference to announce charges.
The Crumbleys left town on the night of the tragic shooting for their own safety. They are returning to the area to be arraigned. They are not fleeing from law enforcement despite recent comments in media reports.