Parents of Michigan School Shooting Suspect Charged, Gun Used Was Christmas Present: Prosecutor

James and Jennifer Crumbley are each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter

Oxford High School
Photo: JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images

The parents of the suspect in Tuesday's mass shooting at a Michigan high school will be charged with involuntary manslaughter, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald announced at a Friday news conference.

James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of 15-year-old suspect Ethan Crumbley, are each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Four days before the shooting at Oxford High School in suburban Detroit, James Crumbley purchased the gun used in the massacre, McDonald said. At the time of the purchase, the teen suspect was present in the store.

After the purchase of the weapon, the teen suspect posted photos of the gun on social media saying, "Just got my new beauty today," which included an emoji with hearts, McDonald said.

Also after the purhcase of the gun, Jennifer Crumbley posted on social media, "Mom and son day testing out his new Christmas present," showing a picture of the gun.

On Nov. 29, two days before the shooting, a teacher at Oxford saw the suspect searching the internet for ammunition on his phone. Subsequently, school personnel contacted Jennifer Crumbley with a voicemail, and then an email. But they received no response from her or her husband.

After that, Jennifer Crumbley texted her son, the suspect, "Lol I'm not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught."

On the morning of the shooting, the suspect's teacher came upon an alarming note on his desk containing the image of a gun, along with the words, "The thoughts won't stop, help me." On another part of the note was a drawing of a bullet with the words, "Blood everywhere." Also on the drawing was a laughing emoji and the words, "My life is useless" and "the world is dead."

Hana St. Juliana, Tate Myre, Justin Shilling, Madisyn Baldwin
Hana St. Juliana, Tate Myre, Justin Shilling, Madisyn Baldwin.

After the teacher found the note, the suspect's parents were summoned to the school and Crumbley was removed from class. At a meeting between the suspect, his parents and school officials, the Crumbleys were told they needed to get their son into counseling within 48 hours.

Both parents did not ask whether he had his gun with him, said McDonald, who added that they didn't inspect the suspect's backpack, where the gun was. Both parents "resisted the idea … of their son leaving the school at that time," said McDonald.

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Instead, both parents left without their son, while the suspect went back to class. When the news of the shooting was made public after 911 calls came in at 12:51 p.m., Jennifer Crumbley texted her son at 1:22 p.m., "Ethan, don't do it."

Oxford High School
Oxford High School. Wikimedia

At 1:37 p.m., James Crumbley called 911 saying a gun was missing from his house, and he believed his son might be the school shooter, said McDonald. Investigation revealed the gun used in the massacre was allegedly stored unlocked in a drawer in the parents' bedroom.

'The Facts of this Case Are So Egregious': Prosecutor

At the news conference, McDonald said, "These charges are intended to hold the individuals who contributed to this tragedy accountable, and also send a message: that gun owners have a responsibility. When they fail to uphold that responsibility, there are serious and criminal consequences."

She added, "We need to do better in this country. We need to say, 'Enough is enough.'"

McDonald said she doesn't believe that school shootings should always result in charges against parents, but she said "the facts of this case are so egregious" that they merited charges.

"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," she said.

McDonald would not rule out charges against school officials, saying, "The investigation is ongoing."

"Of course he shouldn't have gone back to that classroom," she said of the school's decision to let the suspect back into class after his disturbing note was discovered.

When told by a reporter that Oxford parents were angry with the school, McDonald said, "I'd be angry too." She added, "I would be angry. I am angry. I'm angry as a mother, I'm angry as a prosecutor.... There were a lot of things that could have been so simple to prevent."

Four students were killed and seven people were injured in the shooting at Oxford High School in suburban Detroit. The suspected teen shooter is charged as an adult with multiple crimes, including terrorism causing death and four counts of first-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty.

The four fatal victims of the shooting were Madisyn Baldwin, 17, Tate Myre, 16, Hana St. Juliana, 14, and Justin Shilling, 17.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said at a news conference Wednesday that the school district had no record indicating the suspect had been bullied at the school. He added that authorities believe no specific students were targeted in the shooting.

It was not immediately clear if the suspect's parents have retained attorneys.

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