A Michigan prosecutor on Friday filed involuntary manslaughter charges against the parents of the teenage suspect in the deadly shooting at Oxford High School in Oxford Township, Mich.
At a press conference in Pontiac, Mich., Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald announced the charges against Jennifer and James Crumbley, whose 15-year-old son, Ethan, is alleged to have carried out Tuesday's rampage, which left four students dead and seven others, including a teacher, injured.
"While the shooter was the one who entered the high school and pulled the trigger, there are other individuals who contributed to the events on Nov. 30," McDonald said. "And it is my intention to hold them accountable. It is imperative that we prevent this from happening again. No other parent or community should have to live through this nightmare."
Shortly after McDonald's press conference, there were conflicting reports on the parents' whereabouts. Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard told CNN that the Crumbley's were considered missing, and the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service were helping local police track down the couple.
“If they think they are going to get away, they are not,” Bouchard told the network. However, Jennifer and James Crumbley's lawyer told The Daily Beast that the couple is “returning to the area to be arraigned. They are not fleeing from law enforcement, despite recent comments in media reports.”
But police are not buying lawyers' statement that Crumbleys are returning to the area, CNN reported.
Jennifer and James Crumbley were each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
“Gun ownership is a right, and with that right comes great responsibility,” McDonald said before detailing the charges.
According to prosecutors, James Crumbley purchased the Sig Sauer 9mm semiautomatic handgun, the weapon allegedly used by his son, four days before the shooting. A store employee told investigators that Ethan Crumbley was with his father at the time of the purchase. The same day, Ethan posted photos of the gun to social media with the caption "Just got my new beauty today," McDonald said.
The next day, Jennifer Crumbley posted to social media suggesting that she and Ethan were testing out the gun, which she referred to as "his new Christmas present," McDonald said.
On Nov. 21, McDonald said, a teacher at Oxford High School observed Ethan searching online for ammunition with his cellphone during class, and reported it to school officials, who informed Jennifer Crumbley but received no response from either parent.
The same day, McDonald said, Jennifer Crumbley exchanged text messages with her son about the reported incident, including one that read: "LOL I'm not mad at you, you have to learn not to get caught."
On the morning of the shooting, a teacher saw a note on Ethan's desk including a drawing of a semiautomatic handgun next to the words "The thoughts won't stop, help me," and a bullet below the words "Blood everywhere." The note also included drawings of figures with gunshot wounds, as well as the phrases "My life is useless" and "The world is dead."
The teacher was so alarmed she took a photo of the note with her cellphone. Jennifer and James Crumbley were immediately summoned to the school, McDonald said, and a school counselor pulled Ethan from class to meet with his parents. Ethan removed the note from his backpack, but it had already been altered, with the images of the gun and disturbing phrases "scratched out," McDonald said.
School officials told Jennifer and James Crumbley that they were required to find counseling for their son within 48 hours. McDonald said both parents "failed to ask their son if he had his gun with him" and did not inspect his backpack. Prosecutors believe that the gun he allegedly used in the shooting was in his backpack at the meeting.
Jennifer and James Crumbley "resisted the idea of their son leaving the school at that time." They left the school, and he returned to the classroom.
Hours later, amid news of an active shooter at the school, Jennifer Crumbley texted her son: "Ethan, don't do it."
On Wednesday, Ethan Crumbley was charged as an adult with two dozen crimes, including first-degree murder, attempted murder and one count of terrorism causing death.
The terrorism charge — made possible under Michigan's 2002 antiterrorism statute — is unusual, McDonald said, but reflects the severity of the crime.
“What about all the children who ran, screaming, hiding under desks?" she said Wednesday. "What about all the children at home right now, who can’t eat and can’t sleep and can’t imagine a world where they could ever step foot back in that school? Those are victims too, and so are their families, and so is the community. The charge of terrorism reflects that.”