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Parents of Oxford High School shooting suspect charged with involuntary manslaughter

Ethan Crumbley. (Oakland County Sheriff’s Office/TNS)

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald on Friday filed involuntary manslaughter charges against the suspect’s parents in the Oxford High School shooting.

Jennifer and James Crumbley — the parents of 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, who is accused of killing four of his classmates and wounding seven others — were charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; and Justin Shilling, 17.

“These charges are intended to hold individuals who contributed to this tragedy accountable, but also to send a message,” McDonald said at a press conference. “We need to do better in this country. We need to say enough is enough. For our kids, teachers and all of us.”

McDonald said Ethan Crumbley was with father James when the father bought the Sig Sauer Model SP 2022 9 mm semi-automatic pistol at Acme Shooting Goods in Oxford on Nov. 26.

Prior to that, on Nov. 21, a teacher at Oxford High School reported Ethan was searching for ammunition on his phone, she said. The school reached out to Jennifer Crumbley, but never heard back from the parents, the prosecutor said.

Jennifer texted Ethan about it, McDonald said: “LOL, I’m not gonna get mad at you, you have to learn to not get caught.”

At a noon court proceeding in 52nd District Court in Rochester Hills, Lt. Tim Willis of Oakland County Sheriff’s Office said the parents knew their son was troubled and were told to get their son help.

The mother texted her son after learning about the shooting: “Ethan, don’t do it,” Willis added.

After a teacher found a disconcerting note and drawing, the Crumbleys were summoned to the school. But by the time they got there, Ethan had allegedly crossed out some of the notes that were most disturbing, including the words “blood everywhere” and “my life is useless,” McDonald said.

After the meeting, Ethan Crumbley was returned to class, along with his backpack — the backpack allegedly used to carry the gun, McDonald said. Then Ethan went to the bathroom eventually, came out and started shooting, law enforcement officials have said.

At 1:22 p.m. Tuesday, after the shooting, Jennifer allegedly texted her son: “Ethan, don’t do it.”

A short time later, James called 911 and told police his gun was missing, and that Ethan might be the shooter, McDonald said.

The prosecutor contended the Crumbleys kept the gun in a drawer in their room, unlocked.

“I have spoken to (victims’ parents) and indicated what charges were coming,” McDonald said. “These parents are deep in grief.

“I have tremendous compassion and empathy for parents with children who are struggling, for whatever reason,” she added. “But the facts in this case are so egregious. The notion that a parent could read those words, and also know their son had access to a deadly weapon.”

When asked if the Crumbleys were “straw buyers” of the gun, meaning they bought a weapon their son could not have bought for himself,” McDonald said she believed so. But that would be a federal matter, she said.

“I expect parents to have humanity and step in and stop a potential tragedy,” McDonald said.

McDonald said she “couldn’t comment” on whether the parents would be arrested Friday or allowed to turn themselves in. Their case is charged in 52/3 District Court in Rochester Hills. No arraignment time yet appears on the court website.

The prosecutor was asked why Ethan Crumbley was allowed back into class.

“I’m not going to give you a political answer, and I’m not going to cover for anybody,” McDonald said. “But of course he should not have been allowed to go back to that class. I believe that is a universal position. I’m not going to chastise or attack.”

McDonald’s decision came after the Crumbleys’ son was arraigned Wednesday on 24 criminal charges, including terrorism causing death, first-degree murder, assault with intent to murder and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

A judge ordered the teen to be held without bond. If convicted, he is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Earlier this week, McDonald hinted her office may file charges against the teen’s parents. Police said Crumbley’s father purchased last week the gun his son used in the rampage.

Experts and prosecutors not involved in the case said potential charges filed in similar cases have included involuntary manslaughter and negligent endangerment, depending on what investigators uncover. But some experts also suggest it’s rare for adult gun owners to be charged in relation to school shootings.

There have been cases in Michigan and other states where parents under similar facts have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, said Larry Dubin, a criminal justice professor at the University of Detroit-Mercy.

“These potential charges reflect the important need for parents of minors to properly safekeep guns to avoid a child from having easy access to the weapon and causing injury or even death to other people,” Dubin said.

In one standout Michigan case dating to 2000, Jamelle James was sentenced to two to 15 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter after a 6-year-old boy took a handgun that James had stored in a shoebox at the boy’s home and took it to his school near Flint, fatally shooting 6-year-old Kayla Rolland of Mount Morris Township.

Michigan does not have laws requiring gun owners to secure their weapons when children are present in a home, and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is calling for that situation to change.

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