Runaway parents charged with manslaughter after son's alleged school shooting

·4-min read

Police, the FBI and the US Marshals are searching for the parents of Ethan Crumbley, the 15-year-old accused of killing four people in a Michigan high school shooting on Tuesday.

Four counts of involuntary manslaughter against Jennifer and James Crumbley were filed on Friday (local time), for buying their son the weapon used in the shooting as a Christmas gift and failing to heed warning signs. 

Four students died and seven people— including a teacher — were injured in the shooting, which is being reported as the deadliest US school shooting of 2021.

Selfie taken of James and Jennifer Crumbley  showing both of them wearing caps and looking at camera not smiling.
A fugitive warrant was issued on Friday for James and Jennifer Crumbley. Source: AP

“While the shooter was the one who entered the high school and pulled the trigger, there are other individuals who contributed to the events on November 30, and it’s my intent to hold them accountable as well," Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said at a news conference.

“Gun ownership is a right, and with that right comes great responsibility.”

Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; and Justin Shilling, 17 died in the tragic shooting. Alleged shooter Ethan Crumbley is also being charged for their deaths.

'You have to learn not to get caught': Jennifer Crumbley

According to Ms McDonald, the Crumbley's were allegedly aware that their son had access to the gun which was unlocked in their bedroom. 

She also said the teenager had been caught allegedly searching the internet for ammunition by a teacher and the morning of the shooting, a teacher found a graphic picture depicting a shooting with the words "Blood everywhere" and "The thoughts won't stop - help me" written on it.

School officials alerted his mother and left messages for her, which she didn't return. 

"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," Ms McDonald said.

Ethan Crumbley, 15, killed four students and injured eight at a shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan. Source: AP
Ethan Crumbley, 15, killed four students and injured eight at a shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan. Source: AP

Protesters said Jennifer Crumbley sent her son a text message which read, "LOL, I'm not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught."

Ms McDonald said the parents "resisted" the idea of removing their son from school and failed to search his backpack or ask him about the gun.

When Jennifer Crumbley heard there was an "active shooter" at the high school became public, she texted her son: "Ethan, don't do it."

James Crumbley then rushed home to check on the gun and called emergency services to report it missing, as he believed his son may be the Oxford shooter.

The teenager accompanied his father to the gun shop to purchase the semi-automatic handgun four days before the shooting. 

Michigan law prohibits those under 18 years of age from buying or possessing firearms, except in limited circumstances such as hunting with a license and a supervising adult.

According to Ms McDonald later that day, Ethan posted photos of the gun on social media, writing, "Just got my new beauty today" with a heart emoji.

The next day, his mother wrote they were "testing out his new Christmas present," on social media.

Crumbley's 'left town' for safety

Although the Oakland County Sheriff's Office said the couple are missing, the attorneys representing the couple released a statement saying the Crumbleys had left town for their safety and are returning for an arraignment.

“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.”

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