The parents of the 15-year-old accused of killing four students at a Michigan high school earlier this week have each been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald announced Friday that both Jennifer and James Crumbley, the parents of Ethan Crumbley, would be charged in connection to the shooting, NPR reports. James Crumbley reportedly purchased the Sig Sauer handgun on Black Friday just four days before Ethan went on a shooting rampage with the firearm at Oxford High School on Nov. 30.
The Crumbleys were expected to turn themselves into authorities Friday, but did not, MLive reported. Soon after, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department announced they were searching for the couple, who were believed to be driving a Kia Seltos SUV. The public was also cautioned against approaching the Crumbleys if spotted.
“We have our Fugitive Apprehension Team, the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service and others actively looking for them and have every expectation we’ll have them in custody soon,” Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said. “The action of fleeing and ignoring their attorney certainly adds weight to the charges. They cannot run from their part in this tragedy.”
However, the Crumbleys’ attorneys issued a statement Friday afternoon saying the couple had left town “for their own safety” after the shooting and would soon be “returning to the area” for their arraignment, CNN reports.
Ethan Crumbley, who prosecutors said will be tried as an adult, currently faces 24 felony counts, including four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder, and one count of terrorism. The high school sophomore pleaded not guilty to all charges through his lawyer; if convicted, Ethan faces life in prison.
At press conferences following the shooting, McDonald suggested she would “hold individuals accountable” other than Crumbley: School officials twice spoke to Ethan about his alleged threats against classmates in the day before and day of the shooting. Details of those meetings were revealed at Friday, the New York Times reports: A day before the shootings, a teacher witnessed Crumbley doing an internet search for ammunition for the gun in the classroom. When Jennifer Crumbley was notified by the school about the incident, she texted Ethan, “LOL, I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”
Crumbley’s parents also met with school officials just hours prior to the shooting after another teacher found a drawing Ethan made with images of a gun and a person shot dead along with the writing, “Blood everywhere” and “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.” At the meeting hours before the shooting, Crumbley’s parents were told by school officials that their son required counseling, but Ethan was allowed to remain at school that day, even though no one inquired whether or not Ethan had already obtained his father’s firearm.
“While the shooter was the one who entered the high school and pulled the trigger, there are other individuals who contributed to the events of Nov. 30, and it’s my intention to hold them accountable as well,” McDonald said Friday. “Gun ownership is a right. And with that right comes great responsibility.”
While it’s rare that parents of an alleged school shooter are legally held accountable, it’s something that gun control advocates have been championing for years.
“Owning a gun means securing it properly and locking it and keeping the ammunition separate and not allowing access to other individuals, particularly minors,” McDonald previously said at a news conference. “We have to hold individuals accountable who don’t do that.”