Update: The parents of the Michigan school shooting suspect have been arrested — Read our latest coverage here.
The parents of the teen accused of fatally shooting four people at a Michigan high school have been charged in connection with the rampage, the U.S. Marshals office said Friday. James and Jennifer Crumbley were each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
On Saturday, they pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The county prosecutor, Karen McDonald, announced the charges against the couple on Friday, saying they failed to prevent the tragedy and allowed their son to have access to the gun he used in the shooting.
“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 intention to hold them accountable as well,” McDonald said in a news conference.
Authorities searched for the parents after the charges were announced. They had not turned themselves into authorities as of Friday night and were later arrested following a police manhunt that ended in the basement of a Detroit building.
The shooting suspect, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, faces 24 charges in Tuesday’s shooting, including four counts of first-degree murder and one count of terrorism causing death. Four people were killed and seven others were wounded in the shooting at Oxford High School.
The teen made his first court appearance on Wednesday and entered a plea of not guilty.
At the Friday news conference, McDonald said James bought a 9-millimeter Sig Sauer pistol at Acme Shooting Goods in Oxford on November 26. A store employee confirmed to police Ethan was with James when the gun was purchased, she said, adding that social media posts from Jennifer referred to the gun as Ethan’s Christmas present.
McDonald also read a post from Ethan’s social media, which included a photo of the gun and the caption, “Just got my new beauty today,” with a heart emoji.
The prosecutor said a teacher had reported Ethan for using his phone to search for ammunition online. James and Jennifer were notified by email and voicemail but did not respond to school officials, she said.
McDonald read text messages between the suspect and his mother. “LOL I’m not mad at you,” Jennifer told Ethan after the teacher reported him, according to McDonald. “You have to learn not to get caught.”
The morning of the shooting, a teacher at the high school was alarmed by a note she saw on Ethan’s desk, the prosecutor said. The note contained a drawing of a gun, a bullet, and a person who appeared to be shot twice and bleeding, she added. It also contained the words: “The thoughts won’t stop, help me.”
The parents were summoned to the school and were told they needed to enter Ethan into counseling within the next 48 hours, the prosecutor said. The teen was removed from class, with his backpack, but the parents resisted the idea of making Ethan leave school, she added.
The parents resisted the idea of making Ethan leave school and failed to inspect his backpack and ask him if he had the gun with him, the prosecutor claimed. Ethan eventually returned to class.
After news of the shooting broke, the prosecutor said Jennifer sent a message to Ethan at 1: 22 pm, reading, “Ethan. Don’t do it.” Almost 15 minutes later, James called 911 and reported a gun missing from his house, telling first responders he believed his son was the active shooter at the high school, according to McDonald.
Michigan’s attorney general, Dana Nessel, said she fully supports the decision to charge the parents.
“I fully support Prosecutor McDonald’s issuance of charges against Jennifer and James Crumbley. Demanding accountability of a child’s parents under the circumstances presented is not just appropriate, it’s crucial,” Nessel said in a statement. “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.”
Justin Carissimo and Sophie Reardon contributed reporting.