Ethan Crumbley’s parents were “acting in concert” with the suspected mass shooter when he killed four students inside a Michigan high school, the family of one of his victims has said in a new lawsuit.
The parents of 16-year-old Tate Myre said in a suit, filed on Thursday, that James and Jennifer Crumbley are “equally liable” with their son “for his violent assaults” inside Oxford High School.
Tate was fatally shot while trying to protect his classmates from the gunman who opened fire in the hallway of the school on 30 November.
He died in a police car as officers rushed him to hospital for treatment.
In an emotional press conference on Thursday, Tate’s father William Myre said there needs to be “accountability” for his son’s death on what marked the 58th morning his family had woken up without him.
“The ball was dropped, and there needs to be accountability here,” he said.
Mr Myre choked back tears as he said: “Today is the 58th morning we’ve woken up without Tater. Tomorrow with be the 59th, the next the 60th, the rest of our lives.
“We’re sad. We’re hurt. … Our lives are forever changed. Our family will never be the same.”
The Myre family is one of three who have brought a lawsuit together accusing Mr Crumbley’s parents of intentional, reckless and negligent conduct.
In the suit, the families say that the Crumbleys gave their 15-year-old son the handgun used in the mass shooting, withheld information from the school about his concerning behaviour and refused to remove him from school despite multiple red flags.
They were “encouraging [Ethan Crumbley] to show [the gun] off and obtain ammunition for it, endorsing his misusing the handgun, so long as he didn’t get caught, withholding all information from the school officials concerning [Ethan Crumbley’s] mental disturbance and violent propensities and refusing to pull EC from school when the school officials demanded it”, the suit alleges.
“James Crumbley and Jennifer Crumbley were acting in concert with [Ethan Crumbley] and are equally liable with him for his violent assaults and other intentional torts,” the suit reads.
The families also accuse staff at Oxford High School of gross negligence for “increasing the danger” posed by the suspect by failing to take action in light of his disturbing behaviour.
Several officials including teachers and a counsellor are named as defendants along with Mr Crumbley and his parents.
The suit also revealed new details about the final moments of one of the other four students killed in what was the worst high school shooting in America since 2018.
Justin Shilling, 17, was in the bathroom when Mr Crumbley shot him in the head, killing him, according to the suit.
Fellow student Keegan Gregory was hiding with Justin inside the bathroom and Mr Crumbley ordered him to come out of hiding and get on the ground, the suit says.
Instead, Keegan managed to escape by running out of the bathroom to safety and was physically uninjured in the massacre.
The suit says the teenager is now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety and emotional distress.
His father Chad Gregory said at the press conference that his son “suffered an injury so severe, but it was invisible, so no one will know”.
Sophia and Grace Kempen, who are also named as claimants in the suit, were hiding in classrooms when the gunman opened fire, the suit states.
The two sisters are now suffering “severe emotional distress, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disturbance, nightmares, fear of attending school, inability to enjoy movies and games that reprise the shooting incident at Oxford and fear of any loud, sudden noises such as fireworks, and can be expected to continue to suffer such damages into the undetermined future”, the suit says.
The suit, seeking damages of at least $25,000, comes just days after Oxford High School reopened for the first time following the shooting on Monday.
It also came the same day that Mr Crumbley’s attorneys said in a court document that the teenager plans to plead insanity over the shooting.
He will now undergo a psychiatric examination before any trial can take place.
He is charged as an adult with 24 counts including four counts of first-degree murder and one count of terrorism.
Tate, Justin, Hana St. Juliana, 14, and Madisyn Baldwin, 17, were all killed in the massacre and seven other people were wounded.
Both the Crumbley parents and school officials have come under fire for failing to stop the suspect from carrying out the deadly attack after prosecutors revealed a disturbing pattern of behaviour in the days and weeks before it unfolded.
The day before the shooting, the suspect was caught by a teacher looking up ammunition in the classroom, prosecutors said.
School staff contacted the Crumbleys but they allegedly ignored the messages.
Then, on the morning of the shooting, officials said another teacher then found a drawing on the teenager’s desk of a handgun, a bullet and a person being shot.
“The thoughts won’t stop, help me” and “blood everywhere” were scrawled on the note.
That time, his parents were called in to the school and a meeting was held with them, their son and school officials.
The teenager claimed that the drawings were simply designs for a video game, according to school officials.
His parents fought to have him returned to class, prosecutors said, and were told to get him counselling within 48 hours. Just a few hours later, he allegedly opened fire in the school.
In Thursday’s suit, the families allege that a school counsellor collected Mr Crumbley’s backpack from a classroom and returned it to him at the meeting over the disturbing drawing.
The suit claims that Mr Crumbley left the bag in class when he was removed from the lesson and taken to the meeting with the counsellor.
The counsellor retrieved the bag and handed it back to the 15-year-old during the meeting “without inspecting the contents of the backpack or turning it over to the liaison officer or other law enforcement officials, pending an opportunity to conduct a proper and lawful search of the backpack”, it reads.
Prosecutors believe the gun and 48 rounds of ammunition was inside the backpack at the time.
School officials had the power to search the backpack but failed to do so.
Days after the shooting, prosecutors took the unprecedented step to charge the teenager’s parents over the mass shooting.
The couple allegedly bought the gun used in the attack – a Sig Sauer 9mm, model SP 2022 – for their son as a Christmas present four days earlier on Black Friday and left the gun accessible to him.
His parents then failed to remove him from the school or to take any action despite the warning signs about his behaviour, said prosecutors.
Yet, when news of the shooting spread, Jennifer Crumbley allegedly texted her son “Ethan, don’t do it”, officials said.
In a bizarre turn of events, the couple then appeared to go on the run after prosecutors announced charges against them.
They were tracked down and arrested hiding out in a warehouse in Detroit, where they had allegedly withdrawn $6,600 in cash, sold their horses, and bought four burner phones.
James and Jennifer Crumbley were arrested and charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter and have pleaded not guilty.