Involuntary manslaughter charges filed against parents of Oxford High School shooting suspect

James and Jennifer Crumbley charged with 4 counts each

A prosecutor has filed charges against the parents of the Oxford High School shooting suspect for involuntary manslaughter in connection with the deaths of four students.

OXFORD, Mich. – A prosecutor has filed charges against the parents of the Oxford High School shooting suspect for involuntary manslaughter in connection with the deaths of four students.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald on Friday announced charges against the parents of Ethan Crumbley, 15, who is accused of killing four fellow students and injuring seven other people on Tuesday afternoon in the hallways of Oxford High School.

His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, are each being charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to prosecutors. McDonald said during a news conference Friday that the charges are the strongest possible charges the prosecutor’s office could prove against the parents for their role in the shooting.

Parent-weapon connection

Ethan Crumbley, a sophomore student, is accused of firing dozens of rounds from a 9 mm Sig Sauer SP2022 pistol that was recently purchased by his father, fatally striking four students and wounding six students a teacher.

Officials revealed Friday that James Crumbley purchased the weapon at a gun shop in Oxford on Nov. 26 -- four days before the shooting -- with his son Ethan Crumbley present. Ethan Crumbley later took to social media to post a photo of the pistol, writing “Just got my new beauty today,” including an emoji with hearts, prosecutors said.

Following that purchase, mother Jennifer Crumbley reportedly posted on social media, writing, “Mom and son day testing out his new Christmas present.”

McDonald says the evidence indicates that the weapon purchased by James Crumbley was intended as a gift for Ethan Crumbley. In Michigan, you must be at least 18 years old to obtain a handgun license. Officials say the weapon was stored in an unlocked drawer in the parents’ bedroom at their home in Oxford Village.

McDonald said the teen’s access to the weapon goes beyond negligence. During a video message Thursday night, McDonald said, “It’s just not enough to charge this shooter,” implying at that time that charges were likely to be brought against at least one of Ethan Crumbley’s parents.

The reasoning behind the involuntary manslaughter charges goes beyond just the gun ownership, officials said Friday.

Prosecutor: Parents aware of ‘disturbing’ behavior

According to McDonald, a teacher at Oxford High School observed Ethan Crumbley looking up ammunition on his cell phone during class on Nov. 29. The teacher reported the incident to school officials, who reportedly reached out to Jennifer Crumbley by phone and email to alert the parents.

School personnel say they did not receive a response from either parent regarding the internet search. According to McDonald, Jennifer Crumbley sent a text to her son regarding the incident, writing “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”

On the day of the shooting, Nov. 30, officials report that a teacher discovered a note with disturbing drawings and messages on Ethan Crumbley’s desk, prompting her to take a picture on her cell phone and alert school personnel. Prosecutors say the note contained the following items:

  • A drawing of a semi-automatic handgun pointing at the words, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”
  • A drawing of a bullet with “blood everywhere” written above the bullet.
  • A drawing of a person who appeared to have been shot twice and bleeding.
  • A drawing of a laughing emoji.
  • Writing that said, “My life is useless.”
  • Writing that said, “The world is dead.”

Parents meet with school personnel on day of shooting

James and Jennifer Crumbley were summoned to Oxford High School on the morning of the shooting to address the note found by the teacher. Ethan Crumbley and his parents together met with school personnel, where they were shown the note and were advised to take their son to counseling within 48 hours.

During the meeting, Prosecutor McDonald says that the parents both “failed to ask their son if he had his gun with him, or where his gun was located, and failed to inspect his backpack for the presence of the gun -- which he had with him.”

Investigators previously said that the weapon was likely stored in Ethan Crumbley’s backpack on the day of the shooting, which was present during the Tuesday meeting.

Parents refuse to take Ethan Crumbley home after meeting

McDonald says parents James and Jennifer Crumbley did not want to take their son home with them following the meeting on Nov. 30. Instead, the couple left the school without him, and Ethan Crumbley was sent back to class.

According to prosecutors, Jennifer Crumbley sent a text message to her son after news of the school shooting became public, writing, “Ethan don’t do it.” Shortly after, at 1:37 p.m., James Crumbley called 911 and reported that a gun was missing from his house, and that he believed his son may be the shooter at Oxford High School.

McDonald said Friday that she did not intend to “chastise or attack” school personnel, but that Ethan Crumbley “should not have been allowed to go back to that class.” You can watch the prosecutor’s full news briefing in the video player below.

Ethan Crumbley has been charged as an adult with one count of terrorism causing death, four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder and 12 counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

A prosecutor has filed charges against the parents of the Oxford High School shooting suspect for involuntary manslaughter in connection with the deaths of four students.

Superintendent said meeting did not warrant discipline

Oxford Community Schools Superintendent Tim Throne said in a video Thursday night that “no discipline was warranted” for the student following the meeting -- but Prosecutor McDonald said she finds it difficult to believe that the meeting did not raise more concern.

“It’s hard to look at ... what was produced at that meeting ... and say that there was no concern,” McDonald said in a video message Thursday night. “Unfortunately, (Ethan Crumbley) was allowed to go back to class, and we now know that he had a weapon with him.”

Superintendent Throne says the community is taking time to grieve and process everything that happened this week. He said Thursday that funerals are expected to take place within the next week for the four students killed in the shooting: Hana St. Juliana, 14, Tate Myre, 16, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Justin Shilling, 17.

More: What we know about the victims of the Oxford High School shooting

Oxford High School is reportedly not expected to reopen to students for weeks.

“This high school is a wreck right now. Maybe the best way to describe it is, it’s like a war zone,” Throne said in the video. “We’re working as quickly as possible. We’ll be in communication some more in the future, but at this point, allow yourself time to be with your families, be with one another, give grace to one another.”

Michigan Attorney General’s response

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel wrote in a statement Friday that she agrees with McDonald’s charging decision for James and Jennifer Crumbley.

“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,” she wrote. “Justice demands no less.

“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.”

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald held a news conference to discuss charges authorized against James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of the suspected Oxford High School shooter, Ethan Crumbley. The parents are each being charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. Read more here:

More: ‘It’s like a war zone’: Superintendent describes state of Oxford High School, next steps after shooting

About the Authors:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.