FBI hunts for fugitive parents of school gunman Ethan Crumbley as they are charged with manslaughter

·4-min read
Crumbleys - AP
Crumbleys - AP

The parents of a US mass school shooter have said they will surrender to authorities after being charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Ethan Crumbley, 15, opened fire at school on Nov 30 with a semi-automatic handgun he had apparently been given as a Christmas present by his parents James and Jennifer Crumbley.

Four pupils died and seven more were injured in the tragedy at Oxford High School near Detroit, Michigan.

It was the deadliest US school shooting this year.

After the boy’s parents were charged police and the FBI launched a manhunt for them.

Local Sheriff Michael Bouchard said: "If they think they're going to get away they're not. We're going to go get 'em."


However, the Crumbleys lawyer, Shannon Smith, said they had left town for their own safety and would return to face a court.

“They are not fleeing,” the lawyer said.

The Crumbleys could face up to 15 years in jail if convicted.

It is extremely rare for the parents of a school shooter to be charged.

Karen McDonald, the Oakland County prosecutor, announcing the charges against the parents, said America needed to "do better" and that gun owners "have a great responsibility".

McDonald - AP
McDonald - AP

The gun was purchased legally by Mr Crumbley, who took his son with him to the store to buy it on Nov 26. Ethan Crumbley then posted a picture of it on social media, calling the weapon "my new beauty" and attaching a heart emoji.

His mother later posted: "Mom and son day. Testing out his new Christmas present."

At school, the teenager was spotted by a teacher searching for ammunition on his mobile phone while in class. The school attempted to reach Mrs Crumbley by phone and email but she did not reply.

According to prosecutors, she instead sent a text message to her son saying: "Lol. I'm not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught."

On the morning of the shooting, a teacher saw a drawing on the boy's desk on which he had written: "The thoughts won't stop. Help me."

He had drawn a bullet and a shot person, the words "blood everywhere" and a laughing emoji.

The teenager had also written on the paper "My life is useless" and "The world is dead."

People embrace as they visit a makeshift memorial outside of Oxford High School - Getty
People embrace as they visit a makeshift memorial outside of Oxford High School - Getty

He was taken to the headteacher's office and his parents were summoned to school. The parents were told to put him in counseling within 48 hours. But they resisted, taking him home immediately and he was instead returned to his classroom.

Neither parent asked him if he had the gun with him, and did not check his backpack, prosecutors said.

The gun was in his backpack and a few hours later, he emerged from a bathroom and started shooting fellow pupils at random.

As news of an "active shooter" at the school was made public, Mrs Crumbley texted her son, saying: "Ethan don't do it," prosecutors said.

Fifteen minutes later, Mr Crumbley called 911, reporting that a gun was missing from his house and he believed his son may be the shooter.

The gun had been stored unlocked in a drawer in Mr and Mrs Crumbley's bedroom.

Ethan Crumbley has been charged with murder and terrorism causing death.

Ms McDonald, the prosecutor, was close to tears as she announced four charges of involuntary manslaughter each against James and Jennifer Crumbley.

She said: "I want to be really clear. These charges are intended to hold the individuals who contributed to this tragedy accountable - and also send a message that gun owners have a responsibility, and when they fail to uphold that responsibility there are serious and criminal consequences.

"We need to do better in this country. We need to say enough is enough. Any individual who had an opportunity to stop this tragedy should have done so. I expect parents to have humanity and step in and prevent a tragedy."

Crumbley - AP
Crumbley - AP

Ms McDonald added: "We need to take a very hard look at criminal responsibility, what gun owners are required to do.

"It's your responsibility, it's your duty to make sure you don't give access to a gun to someone who you have a reasonable belief is going to harm someone."

She said gun ownership was "a right, and with that right comes great responsibility."

Ms McDonald added: "It's imperative we prevent this from happening again. No other parent or community should have to live through this nightmare.

"I am angry as a mother. I'm angry as a prosecutor. I'm angry as a person that lives in this community. We should all bey very angry."

In 2000 a man in Flint, Michigan was jailed for two years for involuntary manslaughter after a six-year-old boy found his gun in a shoebox and killed a fellow pupil at school.