James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of the teenager who killed four classmates and injured seven others after opening fire at Oxford High School Tuesday afternoon, will each be charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald announced at a press conference Friday.
“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,” McDonald said. “When they fail to uphold that responsibility, there are serious and criminal consequences.”
“On Thursday night, we contacted the Oakland County prosecutor to discuss this matter and to advise her that James and Jennifer Crumbley would be turning themselves in to be arraigned,” lawyers Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman told The Detroit News. “Instead of communicating with us, the prosecutor held a press conference to announce charges. The Crumbleys left town on the night of the tragic shooting for their own safety. They are returning to the area to be arraigned. They are not fleeing from law enforcement despite recent comments in media reports.”
The charges come after Ethan Crumbley, the 15-year old suspect, was charged with one count of terrorism and four counts of first degree murder, among 17 other charges, on Wednesday. Ethan Crumbley is currently held in Oakland County Jail without bond and will be tried as an adult.
On Nov. 21, after a teacher observed Ethan Crumbley searching for ammunition on his cell phone during class, school officials tried to contact Jennifer Crumbley by phone and email and received no response, McDonald said. Jennifer Crumbley texted Ethan Crumbley later that day about the incident, saying, “Lol I’m not mad at you, you have to learn not to get caught,” according to McDonald.
It was previously revealed by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office that James Crumbley purchased the gun used in the shooting on Nov. 26. McDonald said on Friday a store employee confirmed that Ethan Crumbley was present at the time of purchase.
Ethan’s social media posts on Nov. 26 showed off the semiautomatic weapon with the caption, “Just got my new beauty today,” McDonald said. On Nov. 27, Jennifer Crumbley also posted on Instagram, “Mom and son day testing out his new Christmas present,” McDonald said.
The investigation found that the handgun used in the shooting was stored unlocked in a drawer in James and Jennifer Crumbley’s bedroom, McDonald said Friday.
McDonald also shared new information about a previously reported meeting between Ethan Crumbley’s parents and Oxford High School officials that occurred less than three hours before the shooting occurred.
On the morning of Nov. 30, the day of the shooting, a teacher found a note on Ethan Crumbley’s desk that concerned them deeply and led them to photograph it, McDonald said. According to McDonald, the original note contained a drawing of a semiautomatic handgun pointing at the words “the thoughts won’t stop, help me.”
McDonald said the note also contained a drawing of a bullet with the words “blood everywhere” and a drawing of a person who appears to have been shot twice and bleeding. Also included in the note was a drawing of the laughing emoji and the phrases “my life is useless” and “the world is dead.”
A counselor removed Ethan Crumbley from class and brought him to the school’s office with his backpack, where the Oakland County Sheriff’s office believe the weapon was being held, McDonald said. James and Jennifer Crumbley were immediately summoned to the school and the counselor obtained the drawing, but Ethan Crumbley had altered the note so that the drawings of the gun, bloody figure and the phrases were scratched out, according to McDonald.
According to McDonald, James and Jennifer Crumbley were shown the drawings and advised to get their son into counseling within 48 hours. McDonald said because the two were resistant to the idea of Ethan Crumbley leaving the school, he was returned to the classroom.
“Both James and Jennifer Crumbly 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.
At 1:22 p.m., after news of an active shooter at Oxford High School broke, Jennifer Crumbley texted her son, “Ethan don’t do it,” McDonald said. Shortly after at 1:37 p.m., James Crumbley called 911 reporting that a gun was missing from his house and that his son might be the shooter, McDonald said.
McDonald said the weapon was kept unlocked in a drawer in the parents’ room. Michigan law does not currently require adults to keep their firearms locked or away from children, meaning charges like these are very rare. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel told The Detroit Free Press earlier this week that the laws are unclear and, though pursuing a case would be possible, it is unclear what laws would be applicable.
McDonald said that, in her opinion, the state’s gun safety laws are “woefully inadequate.”
“We don’t have a safe-storage law,” McDonald said. “We’re not legally required to store. Children are allowed to attend (gun ranges) with their parents as long their parents are present. The answer to that question is we don’t have strong gun laws.
Nessel released a statement Friday afternoon supporting McDonald’s charges against Jennifer and James Crumbley and supporting stricter gun laws.
“Demanding accountability of a child’s parents under the circumstances presented is not just appropriate, it’s crucial, “ Nessel said. “Justice demands no less. My heart continues to go out to the families who lost their child in this unfathomable tragedy. We must not let this pass without properly addressing gun violence and responsible gun ownership.”
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard also said Friday that James and Jennifer Crumbley were not initially allowing investigators to speak with Ethan Crumbley after he was detained and have not cooperated with police.
His parents appeared briefly at Ethan Crumbley’s arraignment Wednesday evening via Zoom, where a not guilty plea was entered by the judge on his behalf.