(Trends Wide) — The parents of the suspect in the Oxford High School shooting in Michigan, which left four students dead, face charges of involuntary manslaughter for those deaths.
Legal experts were quick to point out that such charges are far from the norm: It is James and Jennifer Crumbley’s 15-year-old son Ethan who is accused of pulling the trigger and killing four of his high school classmates.
“It’s exceptionally unusual,” said Cassandra Crifasi, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Research and Gun Violence. “We rarely hold people responsible for giving a gun to someone who shouldn’t have it.”
But it is the alleged atrocity of the couple’s behavior that appears to have led to the charges.
Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald on Friday presented a chronology of chilling events in the days leading up to the shooting, since James Crumbley purchased the Sig Sauer SP2022 9mm semi-automatic pistol, just days before it was allegedly used in the shooting, and Jennifer Crumbley posted on social media that it was a Christmas present for Ethan.
The timeline that would explain the charges against the parents
On the day of the shooting, a teacher noticed a disturbing drawing Ethan had drawn, which included “a drawing of a semiautomatic pistol pointing at the words ‘Thoughts won’t leave me, help me'” and a drawing of a bullet with “blood all over it. parts “written on top of it, McDonald said.
Later, when they were called to the school office and ordered to seek therapy for their son, the couple did not try to determine the whereabouts of the weapon, or whether their son had it with him that day, the prosecutor said. Parents “resisted” taking Ethan out of school that day, and he returned to class.
An investigation found the gun was stored in a locked drawer in the parents’ room, McDonald said.
“They didn’t even reveal it at the time, nor did they check to see if their son had that gun, nor did they go straight home and look where the gun was … We know because right after the public was notified about an active shooter, Dad He drives home, and it was for one reason: to look for that weapon. And he found it missing, and then he made a call to 911 and said that this weapon was missing, and ‘I think my son is the attacker,’ “he said more late McDonald to Trends Wide’s Anderson Cooper.
He added that the Michigan terrorism charge requires an act against a community, not a government.
“We also have to respect the hundreds of students who were in that school that day, running for their lives out of the building, hiding under desks, in bathrooms, and sending messages. I had a chance to see some of the messages … Those kids were sending their parents, and I can’t even imagine what that must have been like. Receiving a text message from your teenage son that says ‘I love you so much, I think they’re going to kill me.’ What charge does that address? AND the answer is the terrorism charge. I think it’s appropriate, “McDonald added.
“These are extraordinary charges,” said Trends Wide legal analyst Areva Martin. “We know that prosecutors have been reluctant to charge parents in these school shooting cases, although in some cases, like today’s Crumbley cases, parents appear to bear some responsibility.”
His defense attorneys will have to “show that these parents acted responsibly,” Martin said, adding that it is “an uphill battle for this defense team.”
There are no safe gun storage laws in Michigan, the prosecutor said. “We are not legally required to store your gun safely,” he said.
That could be a stumbling block for the prosecution, Charles Coleman Jr., a former prosecutor, told Trends Wide’s Jake Tapper.
“Frankly, I don’t think the prosecution is going to have a strong case with them regarding any of the gun ownership laws per se, at least not against parents.”
But because involuntary charges do not require intent, “I think the prosecution is aiming to make some ground and get some traction” with those charges, Coleman said.
After the school notified parents that Ethan Crumbley had been searching for ammunition online the day before the shooting, Jennifer Crumbley texted her son: “LOL (laughs), I’m not mad at you. You have to learn. not to get caught, “McDonald said Friday.
Such texts and ignoring other red flags can “ultimately be seen as an aid and incitement to the bottom line, so I believe these inadvertent charges will stand,” Coleman said. “But I don’t see much stemming from any kind of gun possession charges in this case.”
Crifasi welcomed the move to accuse the parents.
“It was good to see officials in Michigan decide to hold these parents accountable. We should do it every time someone uses a gun, especially in cases where the perpetrator is someone who cannot legally purchase a gun on their own,” Crifasi said.
McDonald said he does not advocate that all parents in gun assault cases be prosecuted.
“I have great compassion and empathy for parents who have children who are struggling and at risk, for whatever reason, and in no way am I saying that a gunman situation should always result in criminal prosecution against the parents. The facts of these cases are so egregious, “McDonald said.
“The idea that a father can read those words and also know that his son had access to a deadly weapon that was given to him is inconceivable, and I think it is criminal,” said the prosecutor.
With the charges comes hope for a change amid all the carnage and anguish, Crifasi said.
“Hopefully this can be a wake-up call for people about the importance of safe and responsible storage and use of guns, and that more people take seriously the potential harms associated with giving access to people who shouldn’t have them. “, said.
Prosecutor says terrorism charges are explained by shooting other victims
The other rare charge in the case against Ethan Crumbley is a terrorism charge. McDonald said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon that the suspect’s alleged actions meet the requirements for a terrorism charge.
“What about all these other kids? What about all the kids running, screaming, hiding under desks?” McDonald said. “What about all the kids at home right now who can’t eat or sleep and can’t imagine a world where they can step back from school? Those are victims too and so are their families and so are they. It is the children. community and the accusation of terrorism reflects that. “
“I don’t think it’s moral not to include that charge,” McDonald told Trends Wide’s Wolf Blitzer on Friday. “If we’re really going to solve this, if we really want to make sure it doesn’t happen again, we have to do things a little bit differently.”
“There is no playbook on how to process a school shooting and I honestly wish I didn’t have to, that it didn’t happen, so I didn’t have to consider it, but when we sat down I wanted to make sure all the victims are represented. in the charges we brought against this individual, “McDonald told Trends Wide. “If that’s not terrorism, I don’t know what is.”