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James Crumbley told mass shooter son there were ‘people you can talk to’ in meeting hours before school shooting

James Crumbley told mass shooter son there were ‘people you can talk to’ in meeting hours before school shooting

James Crumbley appeared to show concern for his son’s mental well-being when he told him there were “people you can talk to” during a meeting just hours before the teen opened fire at a Michigan high school, a school counsellor testified on Monday.

Mr Crumbley, 47, is on trial for involuntary manslaughter over the November 2021 Oxford High School shooting, in which his then-15-year-old son Ethan Crumbley shot and killed four students.

He is accused of failing to secure a gun at home and ignoring signs of Ethan’s mental distress.

Oxford High School counsellor Shawn Hopkins testified on Monday about a meeting he had with the parents just hours before the shooting. He said he insisted they take Ethan home, but they refused.

Mr Hopkins testified that “on the surface level” it appeared James Crumbley was showing the appropriate level of care for Ethan because of the comments he heard him saying at the meeting.

“He was talking to his son and mentioned, ‘You have people you can talk to. You can talk to your counsellor, you have your journal. We talk,’” Mr Hopkins recalled. “It felt appropriate at that time, but my concern at that point was there wasn’t any action.”

Instead of taking the teen home, however, the parents left with a list of mental health providers after being presented with his violent drawings and disturbing messages.

James Crumbley is on trial for involuntary manslaughter in the 2021 Oxford High School shooting (AP)
James Crumbley is on trial for involuntary manslaughter in the 2021 Oxford High School shooting (AP)

“My hope was that they were going to take him,” Mr Hopkins testified. “Either take him to get help or even just, ‘Let’s have a good day. Let’s have a day where we just spend time with you.’”

“I didn’t want him left alone,” the counsellor added, as he made the decision that the student would be better staying in class with the students rather than going home and being alone.

The testimony came on day three of the trial. Judge Cheryl Matthews said the case could head to the jury by Wednesday.

Prosecutors focused on the morning of the shooting before shifting to the teen’s proficiency with a firearm.

The Crumbleys had met with school staff who gave them a drawing on Ethan’s math assignment showing a gun, blood, and a wounded person, along with anguished phrases: “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me. My life is useless.”

Mr Hopkins said he met with Ethan before they arrived, trying to understand his mindset. The boy told him: “I can see why this looks bad. I’m not going to do anything.”

“I wanted him to get help as soon as possible, today if possible,” Mr Hopkins said. “I was told it wasn’t possible.”

Hopkins testified that he told the parents that he “wanted movement within 48 hours,” and thought to himself that he would call Michigan’s child welfare agency if they didn’t take action.

Oxford High School counselor Shawn Hopkins recalled a meeting he had with Ethan’s parents hours before the shooting (AP)
Oxford High School counselor Shawn Hopkins recalled a meeting he had with Ethan’s parents hours before the shooting (AP)

Just a day earlier, Jennifer Crumbley had been called when a teacher saw Ethan looking up bullets on his phone, the counsellor said.

On the stand on Monday, Mr Hopkins said James Crumbley never objected when his wife said they couldn’t take Ethan home.

He also said that no one disclosed that a new gun had been purchased just four days earlier — one described by Ethan on social media as “my beauty.”

The court heard how Ethan had made multiple visits to shooting ranges with a parent in 2021, including one just three days before the school massacre.

A security camera at the range recorded him instructing his mother when she appeared to struggle with the newly purchased Sig Sauer 9 mm, according to a video played for the jury.

“His new Xmas present,” she wrote on social media.

An Instagram post is entered into evidence of Ethan Crumbley showing off the murder weapon during the trial of his father James Crumbley (AP)
An Instagram post is entered into evidence of Ethan Crumbley showing off the murder weapon during the trial of his father James Crumbley (AP)

Federal agent Brett Brandon said Monday that a cable to lock the Sig Sauer gun case was unused and still sealed in plastic when authorities searched the Crumbley home.

When the boy surrendered at school, “he took the magazine out of the firearm and placed it on top of a trash bin, which I found unique,” Mr Brandon testified on Monday. “Not something someone would do if they committed a mass shooting.”

Ethan’s mother Jennifer Crumbley was found guilty of the same involuntary manslaughter charges last month.

The Crumbleys are the first US parents to be charged with having criminal responsibility for a mass school shooting committed by a child.

Ethan, now 17, is serving a life prison sentence for murder and terrorism.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.