Police Apprehend Parents Charged in Michigan School Shooting After Manhunt on Detroit’s East Side

james-ethan-jennifer-crumbley-ap
Oakland County Sheriff's Office via AP

UPDATE: This is a developing story. Scroll down for updates. All times Eastern. 

UPDATE, 12:44 a.m.: Detroit Free Press columnist and bestselling author Mitch Albom wrote in his Sunday column:

What [Ethan] Crumbley and his enabling parents are charged with having done to this community is horrific and permanent, as devastating as an atom bomb, as tough to remove as a bloodstain.

And yes, I said his parents, because when grown-ups buy handguns as a “Christmas present” for underaged kids and send “you have to learn not to get caught” messages when their son is discovered shopping for ammunition on his phone during class, and when they are called to an emergency meeting at the school because their son drew an image of a gun and a wounded person and the words “blood everywhere” and “my life is useless” and “help me” and yet they don’t think he needs to go home with them, and they don’t even offer the information that just a few days earlier they bought a new pistol into the house that their son posted as “my new beauty” — then yes, in my view, they are culpable, just as the Oakland County prosecutor indicated in charging them with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

UPDATE, 7:47 p.m.:  Oxford Community Schools Superintendent Tim Throne has called for a third party to investigate events that led to the deadly school shooting at Oxford High School, the Associated Press reports.

Throne said in a statement on Saturday that he called for the outside investigation because parents have asked questions about “the school’s version of events leading up to the shooting.”

“It’s critically important to the victims, our staff and our entire community that a full and transparent accounting be made,” he said.

Throne also gave more details about the school’s interactions with the 15-year-old student who killed four of his classmates and wounded seven others.  According to Throne, the student told guidance counselors that his drawing of a bullet with the words “blood everywhere” above a person who appeared to have been shot along with the words “my life is useless” and “the world is dead” was part of a video game design. The disturbing image was discovered by a teacher the day of the shooting.

Throne said that the teen’s demeanor was calm when the school’s staff contacted his parents that day to have a meeting at the school hours before the shooting.

He said the teen’s parents did not notify counselors that they had recently purchased a gun for their son. The day before the shooting a teacher discovered the teen searching for ammo on his cellphone.

“Given the fact that the child had no prior disciplinary infractions, the decision was made he would be returned to the classroom rather than sent home to an empty house,” Throne said. “These incidents remained at the guidance counselor level and were never elevated to the principal or assistant principal’s office. While we understand this decision has caused anger, confusion, and prompted understandable questioning, the counselors made a judgment based on their professional training and clinical experience and did not have all the facts we now know.”

The school administrators have faced increased criticism for not notifying the sheriff’s office immediately after a teacher first alerted administrators to the student’s disturbing drawing the day of the shooting and his cellphone search for ammo the day before the shooting. Had they done so, law enforcement could have removed the student from the school grounds and made sure he had no access to weapons, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard said.

UPDATE, 4:35 p.m.: At an afternoon press conference, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard said the Crumbleys and their son are all being held in Oakland County Jail in separate cells, and both parents and son are on suicide watch.

Bouchard also affirmed the strength of the evidence against the teen shooter. “We have clear evidence that this was premeditated, and he was looking forward to it,” he said.

He also confirmed that police believe another person aided the Crumbleys in fleeing police and hiding in the commercial building at 1111 Bellevue on Detroit’s east side, just a few blocks north of the Detroit River and west of Belle Isle near the Canadian border.

“We believe they were assisted, and we’re gathering that information, and we’re going to have the totality of that done fairly soon and present that to our prosecutor for potential charges for either aiding and abetting or obstruction of justice,” Bouchard said. “We have enough early indications that clearly somebody helped them into that location and made it available to them, and it was after it was publicly announced that there were warrants for them.”

UPDATE, 10:45 a.m.: The Crumbleys have been arraigned. Judge Julie Nicholson set the bond at $500,000 apiece for each parent and required the couple to wear GPS monitoring if they post bail due to their known flight risk.

Despite the hours-long manhunt to apprehend the couple, the Crumbleys’ defense attorneys Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman argued that their clients did not intend to flee.

“Our clients were absolutely going to turn themselves in. It was just a matter of logistics,” Smith said.

Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald countered this by noting that the couple took $4,000 out of an ATM on Friday in Rochester Hills, not far from the courthouse where they could have turned themselves in.

“These are not people that we can be assured will return to court on their own,” she said.

Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe said the couple was located after a Detroit business owner spotted the Crumbleys’ vehicle in his parking lot late Friday. A woman seen near the vehicle ran away when the business owner called 911, McCabe said. The call led to the manhunt in the early hours of Saturday morning and the couple’s capture in a commercial building where they were hiding.

The defense attorneys did not explain why the Crumbleys turned off their cellphones on Friday, took out $4,000 from an ATM, and drove over an hour from their home to hide in a commercial building close to the Canadian border.

Watch video of the arraignment below:

UPDATE, 3:11 a.m.: In a press conference, Detroit Police Chief James White said that the Crumbleys were not armed when they were apprehended hiding in a commercial building in east Detroit, nearly an hour’s drive from their home in Oxford, Michigan. The building was not an abandoned building.

White said that the couple was “aided in getting into the building,” and the person who helped them is known to authorities, and “there is likely to be further charges” for this person.

UPDATE, 2:14 a.m.: The Oakland Country Sheriff’s Office confirmed that they have the Crumbleys in custody.

“Yes, they are both in custody and will be on the way to the Oakland County Jail soon,” said Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe, the Detroit Free Press reports. “Kudos to Detroit PD and all the other agencies that assisted.”

UPDATE, 1:50 a.m.: The Crumbleys have been apprehended on Detroit’s east side after an hours-long manhunt. The police reportedly apprehended the couple in the building on 1111 Bellevue where they were hiding and where their vehicle was discovered, according to the local police scanner.

UPDATE, 1:42 a.m.: The Detroit Free Press reports that police searched a building in the 1100 block of Bellevue near E. Lafayette in Detroit. They are searching the area with flashlights and are “stopping passers-by, shining lights and requesting information about whether people had seen anything.”

UPDATE, 12:40 a.m.: The police have located the vehicle belonging to the Crumbleys and are searching the area for them.

“State police, SWAT, an armored vehicle and police dogs surrounded the area of the 1100 block of Bellevue in Detroit where the vehicle was found late Friday. There was no reporting on the whereabouts of the Crumbleys,” Fox News reports.

The Crumbleys may be fleeing on foot and could be armed, according to audio heard on the local police scanner.

UPDATE, 10:58 p.m.: The U.S. Marshals released “wanted” posters and announced a reward of $10,000 apiece for the couple.

UPDATE, 10:40 p.m.: Officials with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office fault the Oakland County prosecutor for creating the situation that allowed the parents to evade law enforcement because the sheriff’s office was not given advance notice that the couple was going to be charged, the Detroit Free Press reports:

“In my entire 44-year career, I have never, ever seen a prosecutor announce charges in a major case without the suspect being in custody first,” Oakland Undersheriff Mike McCabe told the Free Press.

“We don’t let people turn themselves in,” he said. “When a warrant is authorized by a judge, we go and get them.”

However, McDonald told CNN on Friday that her office was in constant contact with the sheriff’s office but concern about the couple fleeing “wasn’t on anyone’s radar.”

McCabe also alluded to past communication problems with the prosecutor’s office, according to the Free Press. McDonald, a Democrat, was elected Oakland County prosecutor in 2020.

UPDATE, 9:15 p.m.: A law enforcement source told CNN that the Crumbleys withdrew $4,000 from an ATM in Rochester Hills, Michigan, on Friday. Rochester Hills is about 10 or 15 miles from Oxford, which would still place the Crumbleys within the metro Detroit area at the time of the ATM withdrawal.

The law enforcement official also told CNN that they can no longer track the couple by their cell phone pings because they turned off their phones. The official did not specify when the phones were turned off.

The source told CNN that prosecutors feared the couple could be a flight risk because they did not have strong ties to the community, and officials reportedly had difficulty finding the Crumbleys when their son was being arraigned.

This is a developing story. 

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Michigan authorities are searching for the two parents charged with involuntary manslaughter in the Oxford high school shooting.

Jennifer and James Crumbley are the parents of Ethan Crumbley, the teen who is charged with murder and terrorism in the deaths of four students at Oxford High School on Tuesday.

The parents were charged Friday by Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald who said they gave their son access to a gun and didn’t intervene despite clear warnings of problems at school that day.

Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard said an attorney for the Crumbleys hasn’t been able to reach them.

“The action of fleeing and ignoring their attorney certainly adds weight to the charges,” Bouchard said in a statement. “They cannot run from their part in this tragedy.”

Bouchard said that his office, the FBI, and the U.S. Marshals Service are all searching for the couple and “have every expectation we’ll have them in custody soon.”

The couple’s attorneys, Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman, released a statement claiming that the Crumbleys are not “fleeing from law enforcement” but will be returning to the area to be arraigned. The statement reads:

On Thursday night we contacted the Oakland County prosecutor to discuss this matter and to advise her that James and Jennifer Crumbley would be turning themselves in to be arraigned. Instead of communicating with us, the prosecutor held a press conference to announce charges.

The Crumbleys left town on the night of the tragic shooting for their own safety. They are returning to the area to be arraigned. They are not fleeing from law enforcement despite recent comments in media reports.

However, the Oakland Sheriff’s Office seems to dispute this timeline. The Detroit News reports:

“Their attorney had assured us that if a decision was made to charge them, she would produce them for arrest,” [county Undersheriff Mike] McCabe said Friday.

That agreement with attorney Smith was sometime in the morning, McCabe said around 2 p.m. Friday.

“Our last conversation with the attorney was that she had been trying to reach them by phone and text, and they were not responding,” he said.

McCabe said Fugitive Apprehension Team officers were out searching for the couple as of mid-afternoon Friday.

The U.S. Marshals announced on Friday evening that they have joined the search for the Crumbleys, who are still at large:

Oakland County Sheriff’s Office posted a BOLO alert for the couple with information about their car and license plate number.

On Friday, Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald filed involuntary manslaughter charges against the Crumbleys, saying they failed to intervene on the day of the tragedy despite being confronted with a drawing and chilling message — “blood everywhere” — that was found at their son’s desk.

James and Jennifer Crumbley committed “egregious” acts, from buying a gun on Black Friday for their son and making it available to him to resisting his removal from school when they were summoned a few hours before the shooting, McDonald said.

“I expect parents and everyone to have humanity and to step in and stop a potential tragedy,” she said. “The conclusion I draw is that there was absolute reason to believe this individual was dangerous and disturbed.”

McDonald noted that Jennifer Crumbley posted a photo on Instagram of the 9mm Sig Sauer SP 2022 pistol that was used in the school shooting, describing the gun as her son’s “new Xmas present.”

Ethan Crumbley also posted a photo of the gun to his Instagram account, calling it “my new beauty.”

Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald addresses the media in her office on December 3, 2021, in Pontiac, Michigan. McDonald filed involuntary manslaughter charges against Jennifer and James Crumbley, the parents of 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, who is accused of killing four students at a Michigan high school. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

McDonald offered the most precise account so far, three days after four students were killed and others were wounded at Oxford High School, roughly 30 miles north of Detroit.

Ethan Crumbley, 15, emerged from a bathroom with a gun, shooting students in the hallway, investigators said. He has been charged as an adult with murder, terrorism, and other crimes.

Under Michigan law, the involuntary manslaughter charge filed against the parents can be pursued if authorities believe someone contributed to a situation where there was a high chance of harm or death.

Parents in the U.S. are rarely charged in school shootings involving their children, even as most minors get guns from a parent or relative’s house, according to experts.

School officials became concerned about the younger Crumbley on Monday, a day before the shooting, when a teacher saw him searching for ammunition on his phone, McDonald said.

Jennifer Crumbley was contacted and subsequently told her son in a text message: “Lol. I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught,” according to the prosecutor.

On Tuesday, a teacher found a note on Ethan’s desk and took a photo. It was a drawing of a gun pointing at the words, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me,” McDonald said.

There also was a drawing of a bullet, she said, with words above it: “Blood everywhere.”

Between the gun and the bullet was a person who appeared to have been shot twice and is bleeding. He also wrote, “My life is useless” and “The world is dead,” according to the prosecutor.

That day, the school quickly had a meeting with Ethan and his parents, who were told to get him into counseling within 48 hours, McDonald said.

The Crumbleys failed to ask their son about the gun or check his backpack, McDonald said. The teen then returned to class, and the shooting subsequently occurred a few hours later.

“The notion that a parent could read those words and also know that their son had access to a deadly weapon that they gave him is unconscionable — it’s criminal,” the prosecutor said.

Jennifer Crumbley texted her son after the shooting, saying, “Ethan, don’t do it,” McDonald said.

James Crumbley called 911 to say that a gun was missing from their home and that Ethan might be the shooter. The gun had been kept in an unlocked drawer in the parents’ bedroom, McDonald said.

Ethan accompanied his father for the gun purchase on November 26 and posted photos of the firearm on social media, saying, “Just got my new beauty today,” McDonald said.

During the teen’s arraignment on Wednesday, Oakland County Sheriff’s Lt. Tim Willis said his office recovered two videos “from Ethan’s cell phone made by him the night before the incident, wherein he talked about shooting and killing students the next day at Oxford High School.”

Willis said law enforcement also recovered a journal from Ethan’s backpack “detailing his desire to shoot up the school, to include murdering students.”

Mourners grieve at Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. Authorities say a 15-year-old sophomore opened fire at Oxford High School, killing four students and wounding seven other people on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Mourners grieve at Oxford High School in Oxford, Michigan, on December 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

In a video message to the community Thursday, the head of Oxford Community Schools said the high school looks like a “war zone” and won’t be ready for weeks. Superintendent Tim Throne repeatedly complimented students and staff for how they responded to the violence.

He also acknowledged the meeting of Crumbley, the parents, and school officials the day of the shooting. Throne offered no details but summed it up by saying, “No discipline was warranted.”

McDonald was asked about the decision to keep Crumbley in school that day.

“Of course, he shouldn’t have gone back to that classroom. … I believe that is a universal position. I’m not going to chastise or attack, but yeah,” she said.

Asked if school officials may potentially be charged, McDonald said: “The investigation’s ongoing.”

Oakland County Sheriff Bouchard said Friday that the tragedy might have been averted if the school had informed his office of this threat or if the school’s resource officer had been allowed into the meeting with the parents and the teen prior to the shooting.

“In terms of school discipline, [Superintendent Tim Throne] may be right, but at the point — and certainly in the second meeting in the second day … we would have very much wanted our school resource officer in on that meeting,” Bouchard said. “He would have taken protocols we have in place to have [the suspect] removed from the school until action has happened. For example, the school told him he had to be in counseling, we would have had him removed from school until that happened.”

He said that if his office had been informed of these threats, they would have also been able to make sure the teen “had no access to weapons.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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