James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of the 15-year-old Oxford High School shooting suspect in Michigan, were each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter by Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald on Friday for their alleged role in the tragedy that left four students dead and several others injured. The couple hasn't been located and they're being sought by authorities as fugitives.
Two days after announcing that Ethan Crumbley was charged with four counts of murder for the deaths of students Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Julian, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Justin Shilling, 15, in the shooting at his high school on Nov. 30, McDonald laid out details of his parents’ alleged role in the attack she said were so “egregious” they made charges against them necessary.
“I have tremendous compassion and sympathy for parents who have children who are struggling and at risk for whatever reason. And I am by no means saying that an active shooter situation should always result in a criminal prosecution against parents, but the facts of this case are so egregious,” she said.
Beginning at approximately 12:51 p.m. Tuesday, police say the teen suspect allegedly emerged from a bathroom at Oxford High School and went on a shooting rampage in a hallway, leading to the deaths of four students and the injuring of seven other people.
In new details released on Friday, McDonald argued that the teen's parents provided him with unsafe access to a gun, then failed to act when his school told them their son needed help.
She said the investigation revealed that James Crumbley purchased the Sig Sauer 9mm SP 2022 from ACME Shooting Goods in Oxford on Nov. 26, in the presence of his son.
That same day, the teen posted photos of the gun online, calling it his "new beauty." The next day, McDonald said Jennifer Crumbley posted on social media: "Mom and son day testing out his new Christmas present."
"Clearly based on the statements of the shooter (and) the statements of mom, that was his gun," McDonald said.
On Nov. 21 a teacher at Oxford High School also observed the teen researching ammunition on his cell phone during class and reported it to school officials. His mother was contacted by voicemail regarding her son’s internet search. School personnel then followed up the voicemail with an email to both of the alleged shooter’s parents, but neither responded.
Jennifer Crumbley later exchanged text messages with her son, stating: "LOL I'm not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”
McDonald said that on the morning of the shooting on Nov. 30, the teen's teacher saw a note on his desk which alarmed her and she took a picture of it.
The note contained a drawing of a semi-automatic handgun pointing at the words “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.” In another section of the note, there was a drawing of a bullet that said: “blood everywhere.”
Between the drawing of the gun and the bullet, there was a sketch of a person who appears to have been shot twice and bleeding. Below that figure is a drawing of a laughing emoji. Then further down on the drawing were the words “my life is useless.” To the right of that were the words, “the world is dead.”
“As a result, James and Jennifer Crumbley were immediately summoned to the school. The school counselor came to the classroom and removed the shooter and brought him to the office with his backpack. The counselor obtained the drawing but the shooter had already altered it,” McDonald said.
At the meeting with school officials, James and Jennifer Crumbley were shown the drawing and advised that they were required to get their son into 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,” McDonald said. “James and Jennifer Crumbley resisted the idea then of their son leaving the school at that time.”
They both left the school without their son and he was returned to his classroom.
McDonald explained that when the news of the active shooter at Oxford High School was made public, Jennifer Crumbley texted her son at 1:22 p.m., saying: “Ethan, don’t do it.”
At 1:37 p.m., James Crumbley called 911 to report that a gun was missing from his house and he believed his son may be the shooter. Further investigation showed that the Sig Sauer was stored unlocked in a drawer in James and Jennifer Crumbley’s bedroom.
“I want to be really clear that 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,” McDonald said.
“Reading this document. Looking at it. Reading the words with a gun. ‘Help me. Blood everywhere.’ This doesn’t just impact me as a prosecutor and a lawyer, it impacts me as a mother,” she added. “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.”