Prosecutors in Oakland County, Mich., on Friday filed charges against the parents of accused school shooter Ethan Crumbley. According to court records obtained by Law&Crime, James Robert Crumbley and Jennifer Lynn Crumbley are charged with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter in Michigan’s 52nd District Court, Division 3.
At a concomitant press conference to announce the charges publicly, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen D. McDonald said James Crumbley bought the gun — a 9mm Sig Sauer — at Acme Shooting Goods in Oxford, Mich., on Nov. 26. Store employees told investigators that Ethan was present for the purchase. That same day, Ethan is alleged to have photographed the gun and shared the image on social media. Ethan referred to the weapon as his “new beauty,” McDonald said.
“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 alleged with reference to Ethan.
Just days later, on Nov. 30, Ethan is accused of shooting and killing four students inside his school: 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.”
Surveillance footage showed Ethan Crumbley entered a bathroom with a backpack, Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Marc Keast said during an earlier court appearance for Ethan.
“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 have alleged that Ethan Crumbley’s parents gave him access to the newly purchased gun and turned a blind eye toward several warning signs.
A teacher on Monday reported that Ethan was searching for ammunition on his phone. Cops contacted the Crumbley parents by phone and email about the incident, but they got no response, McDonald said.
“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.”
But the next day, the teacher found disturbing letters on Ethan’s desk.
“The thoughts won’t stop,” read one statement which included a drawing of a gun pointing to the words on the page. “Help me,” it added.
The teacher took a picture of the images on her cell phone, McDonald said.
Another image showed a bullet and contained the words “blood everywhere,” the prosecutor added.
The letters further included another disturbing image of a person “who appears to have been shot twice and bleeding,” McDonald continued. “Below that figure is a drawing of a laughing emoji.”
“My life is useless,” Ethan allegedly wrote. “The world is dead.”
The parents were summoned to the school, and Ethan was taken from class, McDonald said. Ethan scratched out the drawings and brought his backpack to a meeting with school officials and his parents.
The officials tried to show the pictures to Ethan’s parents, McDonald said; they also told the parents they were “required” to place Ethan in counseling 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.”
Jennifer Crumbley allegedly texted her son at 1:22 p.m. after the shooting: “Ethan, don’t do it.”
When he heard an active shooter was at the school, James Crumbley allegedly drove straight home to look to see if the gun was missing, the prosecutor said. James allegedly called 911 at 1:37 p.m. to report that the gun was, indeed, missing, and that his son may have been the shooter.
The gun had been stored unlocked in a drawer at the Crumbley home, McDonald said.
Reporters gathered at the press conference asked whether school officials committed any “missteps” in their handling of the case.
“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 later said several times when asked directly whether school officials would be charged — including possibly for criminal negligence. But the prosecutor said she agreed generally that Ethan Crumbley should not not have been sent back to class after school officials met with his parents.
Later, a reporter noted that there was “a lot of anger” aimed at the school, especially considering officials there had remained silent about the matter — at least per the reporter’s reading of the scene locally. When asked to respond to the school’s purported silence, McDonald said, “I’d be angry, too, and I am — but that doesn’t mean there’s criminal culpability.”
McDonald later said that she didn’t necessarily believe that every school shooting warranted charges against a parent — but she said she believed the facts of this case overwhelmingly pointed toward criminal conduct.
“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.”
UPDATE, DEC. 3, 8:10 P.M. — ‘Fugitive Apprehension Team’ Joins Search for Parents of Alleged Michigan High School Shooter
Watch the press conference below:
This story has been updated several times throughout the prosecutor’s press conference.
[Screenshot via WDIV by way of WJXT]
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