The parents of a 15-year-old boy suspected of fatally shooting four classmates at a Michigan high school were arrested early Saturday, hours after they were charged criminally, in an unusual effort to hold parents liable when a juvenile uses their firearm in a school shooting.
Jennifer and James Crumbley were detained when their automobile was found in a Detroit residential area, according to Detroit Police Department spokeswoman Rudy Harper. The Crumbleys were momentarily wanted by local law enforcement and the United States Marshals Service.
After a neighborhood business owner observed the Crumbleys’ car, authorities detained them and charged them with involuntary homicide. According to authorities, a lady escaped on foot after police were informed, sparking a law enforcement manhunt that included K-9 units. According to Undersheriff Mike McCabe of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, the suspected shooter’s parents will be transferred to a jail in Oakland County, Mich., and might be arraigned Saturday.
From a news conference to announce the charges, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen D. McDonald said James Crumbley purchased the pistol — a 9mm Sig Sauer — on Nov. 26 at Acme Shooting Goods in Oxford, Mich. Employees at the store informed detectives that Ethan was there when the transaction was made. Ethan is accused of photographing the rifle and posting the picture on social media the same day. Ethan referred to the firearm as his “new beauty,” according to McDonald.
“Mom and son day testing out his new Christmas present,” Jennifer Crumbley wrote on Nov. 27, McDonald said.
“That was his gun,” the prosecutor eventually said, referring to Ethan.
Ethan is suspected of shooting and murdering four classmates inside his school only days later, on Nov. 30: Hana St. Juliana, 14, Tate Myre, 16, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Justin Shilling, 17.
“While the shooter was the one who entered the high school and pulled the trigger, there were other individuals who contributed to the events of Nov. 30, and it is my intention to hold them accountable as well,” McDonald said. “Gun ownership is a right, and with that right comes great responsibility.”
During a previous court appearance for Ethan, Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Marc Keast said that surveillance film showed Ethan Crumbley entering a washroom with a bag.
“At that point, he methodically and deliberately walked down the hallway aiming the firearm at students and firing,” Keast said. “Right outside the bathroom, he began firing, judge. After children started running away from the defendant, he continued down the hallway, again at a deliberate and methodical pace, pointing and aiming inside classrooms and at students who hadn’t had the opportunity to escape. This continued on for four or approximately five minutes. The defendant went to another bathroom. As deputies arrived, he set the firearm down, and he surrendered.”
Prosecutors claim that Ethan Crumbley’s parents granted him access to the freshly bought rifle and ignored many warning flags.
On Monday, a teacher claimed that Ethan was looking for ammo on his phone. Cops contacted the Crumbley parents about the incident by phone and email, but received no response, according to McDonald.
“LOL. I’m not mad at you,” Jennifer Crumbley allegedly texted her son in response to that incident. “You have to learn not to get caught.”
The following day, though, the instructor discovered frightening writings on Ethan’s desk.
“The thoughts won’t stop,” one statement said, along with a depiction of a rifle pointed at the words on the page. “Help me,” it added.
McDonald said that the instructor photographed the photographs on her mobile phone.
Another photograph showed a gunshot and the words “blood everywhere,” according to the prosecutor.
McDonald went on to say that the letters featured another distressing photograph of a person “who appears to have been shot twice and bleeding.” “Below that figure is a drawing of a laughing emoji.”
“My life is useless,” reportedly wrote Ethan. “The world is dead.”
McDonald said that the parents were called to the school and that Ethan was removed from class. Ethan scribbled over the drawings in his bag and carried it to a meeting with school authorities and his parents.
According to McDonald, the authorities attempted to present the images to Ethan’s parents and informed them that they were “required” to put Ethan in therapy within 48 hours.
“Both James and Jennifer Crumbley failed to ask their son if he had his gun with him — or where his gun was located — and failed to inspect his backpack for the presence of the gun, which he had with him,” the prosecutors continued.
The parents “resisted the idea . . . of their son leaving the school at that time,” McDonald continued. Rather, the parents left without their son, and Ethan “was returned to the classroom.”
“Ethan, don’t do it,” Jennifer Crumbley reportedly texted her son at 1:22 p.m. following the shooting.
When he learned there was an active shooter at the school, James Crumbley reportedly drove straight home to investigate whether the pistol was gone, according to the prosecution. At 1:37 p.m., James reportedly contacted 911 to report that the pistol was really gone and that his son may have been the shooter.
McDonald said that the pistol was left unlocked in a drawer at the Crumbley residence.
Reporters assembled at the news briefing questioned if school administrators made any “mistakes” in handling the matter.
“Any individual who had the opportunity to stop this tragedy should have done so,” McDonald responded. “The question is: what did they know, and when did they know it?”
“The investigation is ongoing,” McDonald replied many times later when asked explicitly whether school administrators will face charges, including criminal negligence. However, the prosecution said that Ethan Crumbley should not have been brought back to class after school authorities spoke with his parents.
Later, a reporter remarked that there was “a lot of anger” directed towards the school, particularly given that administrators there had kept mute on the topic — at least according to the reporter’s local assessment of the scenario. When questioned about the alleged quiet at the school, McDonald said, “I’d be angry, too, and I am — but that doesn’t mean there’s criminal culpability.”
McDonald subsequently said that she did not feel that every school shooting justified criminal charges against a parent, but that the evidence of this instance strongly pointed to criminal culpability.
“The facts of this case are so egregious,” the prosecutor continued. “This doesn’t just impact me as a prosecutor and a lawyer; this impacts me as a mother. The notion that a parent could read those words and also know that their son had access to a deadly weapon that they gave him is unconscionable, and I think it’s criminal. It is criminal.”
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