Parents of Michigan school shooting suspect plead not guilty as mother sobs in court
Ethan Crumbley’s parents pleaded not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter in connection to their son’s alleged shooting rampage at Oxford High School that led to the death of four students on Tuesday.
James and Jennifer Crumbley appeared at an arraignment in front of judge Julie Nicholson this morning after being arrested by Detroit Police around 1.30am earlier today.
The arrest came after officers found a vehicle, believed to belong to the Crumbleys late on Friday, when they were searching for the couple. The vehicle was reported by the owner of the industrial building where the couple was located.
James and Jennifer Crumbley, parents of the 15-year-old accused, had gone missing after being charged with involuntary manslaughter on Friday.
Prosecutor Karen McDonald announced the charges against James and Jennifer Crumbley on Friday, three days after their son Ethan allegedly killed four classmates and wounded seven others.
On Tuesday morning, the parents attended a meeting with Mr Crumbley and administrators after another teacher found a note on his desk with a drawing of a handgun that read: “The thoughts won’t stop, help me.”
The parents allegedly insisted Mr Crumbley return to class, and three hours later he carried out the massacre. When she heard reports of an active shooter, Jennifer Crumbley allegedly texted: “Ethan, don’t do it.”
WATCH: Press conference on charges against parents
Mother texted Ethan Crumbley ‘Don’t do it’ after hearing about shooting
Ethan Crumbley’s mother Jennifer texted him “Don’t do it, Ethan” after she heard reports of an active shooter at his school, authorities said Friday.
The message suggests the mother knew about her son’s plan to carry out the shooting.
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 had been stored in an unlocked drawer at the family’s home.
Teachers’ concerns revealed
Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald explained the two incidents that prompted teachers to raise alarms about Ethan Crumbley’s behaviour prior to the shooting.
On Monday, a teacher reportedly found Mr Crumbley searching for ammunition online. 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 and the words: “The thoughts won’t stop, help me.”
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 Independent’s Graig Graziosi reports:
The teen’s mother, Jennifer Crumbley, also allegedly laughed off his son being caught reading about ammunition while in class
Ethan Crumbley was with his dad when gun was purchased
Prosecutor Karen McDonald said Ethan Crumbley went with his father James on Black Friday to purchase the semi-automatic handgun used in the shooting.
“James Crumbley purchased a Sig Sauer 9mm model SP 2022 from Acme Shooting Goods in Oxford, Michigan, on Nov. 26th, 2021. A store employee confirms that Ethan Crumbley was present with James at the time of the purchase,” she said.
Mr Crumbley later posted on social media about trying out his “new Christmas present”, referencing the gun.
Charges against parents meant to ‘hold them accountable'
Prosecutor Karen McDonald said she was bringing charges against Ethan Crumbley’s parents because while he 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 at Friday’s press conference.
The prosecutor noted that the involuntary manslaughter charge is the strongest allowed under the law.
Parents to be arraigned at 4pm Friday
James and Jennifer Crumbley are set to be arraigned at 4pm Friday on charges of involuntary manslaughter in connection with their son Ethan’s alleged shooting at Oxford High School.
Judge Julie Nicholson signed off on the charges presented just before noon by Lt Tim Willis, the head of the Oakland County Sheriff’s special investigations unit.
Mr Willis said authorities planned to arrest the parents after the charges were approved.
Parents’ actions were ‘criminal’, prosecutor says
Prosecutor Karen McDonald said James and Jennifer Crumbley’s failure to prevent Tuesday’s shooting is “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.”
EXPLAINED: The charges against James and Jennifer Crumbley
Ethan Crumbley’s parents James, 45, and Jennifer, 43, have each been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter for each of the four students killed in Tuesday’s shooting.
Prosecutor Karen McDonald noted that the charges are the strongest allowed under Michigan law.
The Oakland County Sheriff’s office moved to arrest the couple after a judge signed off on the charges midday Friday. They are scheduled to appear at an arraignment at 4pm.
The Independent’s Megan Sheets reports:
Charging decision for Jennifer and James Crumbley comes three days after their son allegedly killed four at Oxford High School
ICYMI: Red flags ignored prior to the shooting
As the tight-knit community of Oxford Township, Michigan, struggles to pick up the pieces from Tuesday’s deadly high school shooting, revelations about multiple red flags from the days prior are fuelling an impossible question: why wasn’t something done to prevent this?
Investigators reportedly uncovered a “mountain of evidence” showing suspect Ethan Crumbley plotted his attack well in advance, outlining plans in a journal and sharing his intentions in two videos filmed before the shooting.
His social media accounts were allegedly studded with menacing posts, including a photo of the handgun he used in his rampage and an apparent countdown warning: “Now I become death – destroyer of worlds – see you tomorrow Oxford.”
Teachers at Oxford High School raised concerns about the teen’s behaviour twice in the days leading up to the shooting, authorities say. The second time took place on the morning of the shooting, when Mr Crumbley’s parents met with him and administrators at the school.
Students and parents described a sense of unease on the campus in the weeks prior, saying that threats of a violence had been circulating for some time. The school acknowledged the rumours in a letter to parents in mid-November.
When pieced together, these details paint a picture that casts doubt on claims by school administrators and law enforcement that they had no prior knowledge of what would come to take place on Tuesday. The Independent’s Megan Sheets reports:
Revelations about suspect Ethan Crumbley’s menacing social media posts, confessional videos and ‘disturbing’ classroom behaviour have sparked a debate over whether more could have been done to prevent the deadly shooting at Oxford High School. Megan Sheets writes
Prosecutor: ‘I am angry'
Prosecutor Karen McDonald expressed anger at the fact that the Oxford High School shooting wasn’t prevented when announcing the charges against James and Jennifer Crumbley on Friday.
“I am angry. I’m angry as a mother, as the prosecutor, I’m angry as a person that lives in this county,” she said, noting that simple things could have been done to stop the tragedy.
“It’s impossible not to conclude that there was a reason to believe that [Ethan Crumbley] was going to hurt somebody.”
She continued: “We have great law enforcement and good training, but I said before, four kids were murdered and seven more injured. So yes, I think we should all be very angry and we should take a very hard look at what is in place in terms of criminal responsibility, what gun owners are required to do.”
“It’s your responsibility, it’s your duty to make sure that you don’t give access to this deadly weapon to somebody that you have reason to believe is going to harm someone.”