Pontiac, Mich. – The parents of a teen accused of killing four students in a shooting at a Michigan high school were caught early Saturday, hours after a prosecutor filed charges of involuntary manslaughter against them, officials said.
Detroit Police Chief James E. White told a news conference that James and Jennifer Crumbley were imprisoned in a Detroit commercial building that housed artifacts.
White said the couple were “assisted to enter the building,” and that the person who helped them could also face charges.
Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe said in a statement, a Detroit business owner noticed a car tied to crumbles in his parking lot late Friday.
McCabe said a woman ran near the vehicle when the business owner called 911. The couple was later traced and arrested by Detroit Police.
A prosecutor filed charges of involuntary manslaughter against the Crumblies on Friday, accusing him of failing to intervene on the day of the tragedy, despite being confronted with a drawing and chilling message — “blood everywhere.” – which was found on the boy’s table.
Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said the Crumblies committed “serious” acts to buy a gun on Black Friday and protest Ethan Crumbley’s removal from school, when he was called hours before the shooting.
Officials had been searching for the couple since Friday afternoon. Late on Friday, US marshals announced a reward of up to US$10,000 for each person leading to his arrest.
Crumbley’s attorney, Shannon Smith, said the pair left town earlier in the week “for their own safety”. Smith told The Associated Press that he would return to Oxford to stand trial.
However, White said the crumbles “appeared to be hiding” in the building where they were found. He said the parents appeared “troubled” when they were apprehended.
“Heads down… very upset,” he said of one of the parents.
McCabe said the couple expected to be booked in the Oakland County Jail.
Earlier, prosecutors offered the most accurate description ever of the events that led to the shooting at Oxford High School, which is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Detroit.
Investigators said 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley emerged from the bathroom with a gun, shooting the students. He has been charged as an adult for murder, terrorism and other offences.
Under Michigan law, a charge of involuntary manslaughter filed against a parent may be pursued if authorities believe someone contributed to a situation where there was a high probability of harm or death.
According to experts, in the US parents are rarely charged in school shootings involving their children, while most minors get guns from a parent or relative’s home.
McDonald said school officials became concerned about little Crumble on Monday, a day before the shooting, when a teacher saw him looking for ammunition on his phone.
According to the prosecutor, Jennifer Crumbley was contacted and later said in a text message to her son: “Lol. I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”
On Tuesday, a teacher found a note on Ethan’s desk and took a picture. It was a picture of a gun pointing to the words, “Thoughts won’t stop. Help me,” McDonald said.
There was also a picture of a bullet, he said, with the words above it: “Blood everywhere.”
Between the gun and the bullet was a man who was shot twice and appeared to be bleeding. According to the prosecutor, he also wrote, “My life is worthless” and “the world is dead”.
McDonald said the school soon held a meeting with Ethan and his parents, who were asked to provide counseling within 48 hours.
McDonald said, the Crumblies failed to ask his son about the gun or check his backpack and “opposed the idea of his son dropping out of school at the time.”
Instead, the teen returned to class and the shooting followed.
“The notion that a parent can read those words and also know that their son had a deadly weapon they gave him is unconscionable — it’s criminal,” the prosecutor said.
Jennifer Crumbley texted her son after shooting, “Ethan, don’t do that,” McDonald said.
James Crumble calls 911 to say that a gun is missing from his house and that Ethan may be the shooter. McDonald said the gun was kept in an unlocked drawer in the parent’s bedroom.
Ethan went to buy a gun with his father on November 26, McDonald said, posting pictures of the gun on social media, saying, “Just found my new beauty today.”
The prosecutor said that over the long Thanksgiving weekend, Jennifer Crumbley wrote on social media that it was “the day of the mother and son testing out their new Christmas presents.”
Asked at a news conference whether the father could be charged with buying a gun for the son, McDonald said it would be a decision of federal officials.
In a video message to the community on Thursday, the head of Oxford Community Schools said the high school looked like a “war zone” and would not be ready for weeks. Superintendent Tim Throne repeatedly commended the students and staff for how they reacted to the violence.
He also acknowledged the meeting of Crumbley, parents and school officials. Throne gave no details, but summarized it by saying, “No discipline was necessary.”
McDonald’s was asked about the decision to keep Crumbley at the school.
“Of course, she shouldn’t have gone back to that class. … I believe it’s a universal situation. I’m not going to punish or attack, but yes,” she said.
Asked whether school officials could potentially be charged, McDonald said: “The investigation is ongoing.”
White reported from Detroit. Associated Press journalists Mike Householder in Detroit and David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan also contributed to this report.