4 Dec 2021

Parents of Michigan teen suspected of school shooting charged with manslaughter

9:33 am on 4 December 2021

Authorities are searching for the parents of the Michigan teenager accused of murdering four students at his high school, hours after the couple was charged with involuntary manslaughter for buying their son the weapon as a Christmas gift and failing to heed warning signs.

A memorial outside of Oxford High School continues to grow on December 03 2021 in Oxford, Michigan. Four students were killed and seven others injured on November 30,

A memorial to the students who died or who were injured during the shooting spree at Oxford High School in Michigan. Photo: 2021 Getty Images

A fugitive warrant has been issued for James and Jennifer Crumbley, who had been scheduled for arraignment on four counts of manslaughter each later today, three days after authorities say [https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/world/457007/michigan-school-shooting-student-kills-three-and-wounds-eight their 15-year-old son, Ethan, carried out the deadliest US school shooting of 2021.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard told CNN police were searching for the Crumbleys after the couple's attorney told his office that the Crumbleys had stopped responding to messages.

"If they think they're going to get away, they're not," Bouchard said, adding that a "host" of detectives, as well as the FBI and the US Marshals Service, were looking for them.

James Crumbley purchased the handgun used in the attack four days prior, authorities have said.

December 02, 2021 this booking photo released by the Oakland County Sheriff's Office in Michigan shows shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley.

Ethan Crumbley Photo: AFP / Oakland Country Sheriff's office

Parents are rarely charged in connection with children's school shootings. Unlike some states, Michigan does not legally require gun owners to keep their firearms secured from children.

Ethan Crumbley faces two dozen charges, including terrorism and first-degree murder, and is being held without bond.

He has been charged and has pleaded not guilty. Police are yet to identify a motive in the attack.

The victims were named as Tate Myre, 16, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, Hana St Juliana, 14, and Justin Shilling, 17.

James and Jennifer Crumbley are expected to be arraigned later on Friday, three days after authorities say their son carried out the deadliest US school shooting of 2021.

"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," Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald told a news conference on Friday.

Four days before the shooting, Ethan accompanied his father to a local gun shop, where James Crumbley bought a semi-automatic handgun, prosecutors said.

Later that day, Ethan posted photos of the gun on social media, writing, "Just got my new beauty today" and adding a heart emoji. His mother posted the next day that the two of them were "testing out his new Christmas present", McDonald said.

Prosecutors described several chilling warning signs in the days leading up to the shooting. On 21 November, a teacher saw Ethan Crumbley searching for ammunition on his phone during class and alerted school officials, who left messages for his mother that went unreturned.

In a text message to her son that day, Jennifer Crumbley wrote, "LOL, I'm not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught," prosecutors said.

The morning of the shooting, a teacher discovered a drawing that Ethan Crumbley had made depicting a handgun, a bullet, and a bleeding figure. The words "Blood everywhere" and "The thoughts won't stop - help me" were also written on the sheet, among other messages, according to McDonald.

"It is impossible not to conclude that there is reason to believe he might hurt someone" based on the drawings, McDonald said.

James and Jennifer Crumbley were summoned to the school, where they were instructed to get Ethan into mental health counselling within 48 hours, McDonald said. They "resisted" the idea of taking their son home from school and did not search his backpack or ask him about the gun, she said.

When news of an active shooter at the school broke, Jennifer Crumbley sent Ethan a text message, urging him, "Don't do it," according to prosecutors. A few minutes later, James Crumbley called police to report that the gun was missing and he believed his son might be the shooter.

The gun had been stored in an unlocked drawer in the parents' bedroom, McDonald said.

It was not immediately clear whether James and Jennifer Crumbley had legal representation.

McDonald said the teen will face one count of terrorism, four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder, and 12 counts of possession of a firearm, with further charges likely as the investigation unfolds.

At a later news conference, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said charging the suspect as an adult was "the most appropriate" action.

-Reuters / BBC

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