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Parents of Michigan school shooter ‘found in basement’ after police hunt

Police had been searching for Ethan Crumbley’s parents James and Jennifer after laying involuntary manslaughter charges. Police say they had bought the firearm for their son as a Christmas gift.
By Brendan O'Brien and Joseph Ax
Updated December 4, 2021 — 6.57pmfirst published at 6.46am
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Detroit: The parents of a teenager accused of killing four students at a Michigan high school were caught on Saturday local time, according to a sheriff’s office.

Authorities had on Friday initiated a search after Jennifer and James Crumbley, the parents of the suspect in the Oxford High School shooting, disappeared.

An alert had been issued for James and Jennifer Crumbley.

An alert had been issued for James and Jennifer Crumbley.Credit:The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office

A vehicle linked to the couple was discovered at an address on Detroit’s east side on Saturday night, Rudy Harper, a Detroit Police deputy chief, told local reporters. The couple was apprehended a short time later.

Police told local reporters that the Crumbleys had been found in the basement of the building around 2am local time.

On Friday, the Crumbleys were each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter after the prosecutor said they bought the firearm for their son as a Christmas gift.

Their 15-year-old son, Ethan, is accused of fatally shooting four students and injuring seven others at Oxford High School on Tuesday.

During a hearing that started around noon local time, a lieutenant with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office said the parents were not in custody. The Oakland County Fugitive Team and other agencies began searching for the couple.

“The action of fleeing and ignoring their attorney certainly adds weight to the charges,” Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said in a release on Friday. “They cannot run from their part in this tragedy.”

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The family’s lawyers said the couple had not fled authorities, but had left town amid the commotion surrounding tragedy.

“The Crumbleys left town on the night of the tragic shooting for their own safety. They are returning to the area to be arraigned,” their lawyers Smith and Mariell Lehman said.

The gun had been stored in an unlocked drawer in their house and Crumbley’s parents did not ask where it was when they were called to the school the day of the shooting for a disturbing drawing their son made of a firearm, said Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald at a news conference on Saturday AEDT.

“At this time, the FBI is not assisting with the search for Ethan Crumbley’s parents. However, we are prepared to provide any assistance requested by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office,” said Mara Schneider, a spokesperson for the FBI’s Detroit field office.

CNN reported that an unnamed police officer told the network that the parents withdrew $US4000 from an ATM in Rochester Hills, Michigan, on Friday, about 24 kilometres from Oxford, and that the couple’s mobile phones had been switched off.

Ethan Crumbley had posted about the firearm online and researched ammunition while at school, McDonald said the investigation revealed. He was also allowed to return to class on the day of the shooting after the meeting with his parents, she said.

“The facts of this case are so egregious,” McDonald said.

Ethan Crumbley is being held without bond on two dozen counts, including murder.

Ethan Crumbley is being held without bond on two dozen counts, including murder.Credit:

On Wednesday, Crumbley was charged as as an adult with murder, terrorism and other crimes in what investigators described as a methodical and deliberate massacre.

When asked whether her office was looking into charges for any school officials, McDonald said the investigation was ongoing.

“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,” she said.

At a news conference, McDonald laid out how the suspect obtained the firearm and other warning signs in the days leading up to the shooting.

McDonald said the suspect was present when his dad purchased the 9mm Sig Sauer SP 2022 on November 26. The same day, the suspect posted photos of the weapon online, calling it his “new beauty”. His mother said in a post the following day: “Mom and son day testing out his new Christmas present.”

”Clearly based on the statements of the shooter (and) the statements of mum, that was his gun,” McDonald said.

The 15-year-old suspect was also caught looking up ammunition online while at school before the shooting. McDonald said school officials contacted his mother about the online search, leaving a voicemail and email, but received no response. Crumbley’s mother instead texted him the same day, “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught,” McDonald said.

Hours before the shooting, Crumbley was found with a disturbing drawing that included a drawing of a firearm and someone who appeared to be bleeding, McDonald said.

A teacher took a photo of the drawing and Crumbley’s parents were immediately contacted. When the drawing was brought to a school counsellor with Crumbley and his parents present, Crumbley had altered it, McDonald said.

The Crumbleys were told their son needed to get counselling, but he was able to return to class. His parents did not ask him about the firearm at that time nor did they search his backpack, McDonald said.

“Of course, he shouldn’t have gone back to that classroom,” McDonald added.

After reports of the shooting at the school, Jennifer Crumbley allegedly texted her son: “Ethan don’t do it.” James Crumbley drove home to search for the firearm and called 911 to report it missing, saying he believed his son was the shooter.

“I’m angry as a mother. I’m angry as the prosecutor. I’m angry as a person that lives in this county. I’m angry. There were a lot of things that could have been so simple to prevent,” McDonald said.

McClatchy, Detroit Free Press

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